Michigan State hockey dropped their regular season home opener against No. 4 Cornell, 2-3 on Friday. The loss puts the Spartans behind in their overall record, 2-3, while it gives Cornell a victory in their first game of the season.
“It was a good battle. Obviously there’s some things we could do better,” Head Coach Danton Cole said postgame. “We started well, finished well, but in between, there’s lots of room for improvement.”
Penalties, five of which the Spartans stacked up in the first period, put a dent in what looked like it would have been a solid start for Michigan State.
Within the first seven minutes, the Spartans put up seven shots, while holding Cornell to just one. At 7:11, sophomore defenseman Dennis Cesana capitalized off of a Spartan power play and scored the first goal of the night to give the Spartans an early lead.
But then, the game shifted.
Two back-to-back penalties for the Spartans gave Cornell power plays that propelled their offensive play into action. The Spartan defense didn’t back down and was able to keep the puck out of their zone for the majority of the powerplay, despite having a two-man disadvantage for 44 seconds.
Later, an interference call on junior wing Mitchell Lewandowski gave Cornell their fourth power play of the period, leading to a goal for The Big Red and tying the game 1-1.
In the second period, three early penalties, two on Cornell, one on Michigan State, led to a four-versus-three matchup on the ice. With the numbers in their favor, senior center Patrick Khodorenko put up his first goal of the season and brought the lead back to the Spartans 2-1.
With just over 10 minutes left in the second period, a puck went loose right in front of the Spartan goal. Goalkeeper John Lethemon struggled to get control before Cornell found the puck and shot it in to tie the game once again. The goal marked the first the Spartans have allowed in the second period so far this season.
Lots of opportunities came for the Spartans in the following minutes, but the team just couldn’t regroup to get pucks through the net.
Cornell scored the final goal of the game, one that deflected into the net off the post, just before the end of the second period. The goal put Cornell on top 2-3 and left the Spartans behind for the first time all game.
In the third, the Spartans looked ready to make a comeback, taking advantage of lots of opportunities, but still struggling to turn their shots into goals. The Spartans saw two close chances in the final minute of the game but failed to capitalize on them, ending the game at 2-3 Cornell.
“At times we looked really good, and at times we looked kind of sloppy, a little too many turnovers and definitely got to stay out of the box more. That kind of shot us in the foot a couple times,” Cesana said after the game.
As for Saturday, the Spartans will hope to split their third series in a row and take a win over Cornell.
“We got to have the same mindset we had the first five minutes today. We came out pretty hot, had a few chances,” Khodorenko said about how the team plans to play in the series finale. “We can't retaliate, as soon as we do that we kind of get off our game and they gain momentum off of that.”