Michigan State hockey (12-16-5, 8-11-4 Big Ten) fell to No. 17 Penn State (17-12-2, 9-11-1 Big Ten) 5-3 Saturday night as the Nittany Lions spoiled senior night as well as the Spartans’ chances to play another game at home this season.
Junior goaltender John Lethemon earned his second straight start, saving 42 of 47 shots.
After the opening drop, where seniors forwards Cody Milan, Brennan Sanford, and defenseman Zach Osburn each started for the Spartans, Penn State established control to take an early lead. Brandon Biro capitalized on a Spartan turnover in the neutral zone, converting on an odd-man rush to go up 1-0.
The Nittany Lions threatened to extend their lead as the puck redirected off Chase Berger’s hand and in, but his goal was overturned upon review.
The Spartans’ seniors would make a contribution less than a minute later. The fourth line production ensued from Friday’s win as Sanford fed freshman forward Adam Goodsir to nod the score midway through the first period.
“The first five minutes... we had the puck the whole time. I thought we were really good and then they had a good push and they're good at that,” MSU coach Danton Cole said. “I thought we skated great the first five minutes and really well in the last five minutes and in the middle ten, we didn't, they did.”
Penn State created traffic on its first power play, setting up Ludvig Larsson to jab a rebound home for the power play goal and the lead heading into intermission. Penn State led 2-1 after a period in which they outshot the Spartans 20-10.
As an MSU power play ensued from the first, junior forward Taro Hirose would fail to net his best chance of the night on a breakaway.
“Their d-men did a good job of getting in lanes and blocking shots. I think for myself, (on) the breakaway I think I had him, I just whiffed on the backhand, which is frustrating,” Hirose said. “We had a couple other chances on my line to shoot the puck, whether it's just not shooting quick enough or their d-men getting into lanes... It was just a frustrating game overall.”
Milan made his presence felt in the seniors’ potentially final home game on the Spartans’ second power play, beating Peyton Jones high on his glove side.
Penn State would catch Lethemon failing to slide over twice in five minutes, as a pair of Penn State bounces led to Paul DeNaples and Kris Myllari’s respective goals and a commanding 4-2 lead heading into the final period.
Sophomore forward Mitchell Lewandowski took out his frustration on his stick after he sent a shot wide on an open net well into a third period where the Spartans’ chances were limited. He would nearly make up for the miscue shortly after, feeding Khodorenko who saw another open net close in an instant as he was stuffed by Jones.
Redshirt junior defenseman Jerad Rosburg’s goal from the point would provide the Spartans with life with just under six minutes remaining, but the effort was too little too late. Rosburg’s tripping penalty with 2:26 remaining effectively iced MSU’s chances, as Nate Sucese capitalized on the Spartans’ empty net for the 5-3 victory.
The Spartans will travel to Columbus after a week off to battle Ohio State on Friday, Mar. 1 at 6:30 p.m.