On a day where the Michigan State football team left a lot to be desired on the field in Ann Arbor, the hockey team hit the ice Saturday night trying to salvage rivalry weekend with a sweep over the Wolverines at Munn Ice Arena.
The Spartans (5-5) were able to do just that, as senior goaltender John Lethemon continued his string of stellar play with another shutout and the team killed off 5 penalties to take down U-M 3-0, sweeping the Wolverines for the first time since 2009.
“I liked a lot of things tonight,” Head Coach Danton Cole said. “Most important for us was the battle and resiliency. There was a lot of times where we had to answer the bell, and that was killing penalties or blocking shots ... real proud of the way the guys played both nights.”
It didn’t take long for the Green and White to set the tone. Just 1:59 into the first period, freshman center Josh Nodler redirected a Tommy Miller snap shot from the point past Michigan goaltender Strauss Mann for his second goal of the season. It was rather uneventful for the remainder of the period as the two teams went back and forth, trading their share of quality scoring chances. Michigan was unable to convert on two power play opportunities, with Lethemon coming up with some timely saves to keep the Wolverines scoreless. Both teams finished the period with eight shots, but it was the Spartan’s physicality and the support of the home crowd that aided their success through 20 minutes of play.
Michigan controlled the pace of play to open up the second period, outshooting MSU 8-2 ten minutes in. They had one of their best scoring opportunities of the night turned away when redshirt-senior defenseman Jerad Rosburg hustled back and dove to poke away a 2-on-1 rush by the Wolverines. It didn’t take long for the Spartans to recover, however, as they scored two goals less than two minutes apart late in the period to go up 3-0.
With 8:22 remaining, sophomore center Adam Goodsir cleanly won a faceoff in the offensive zone that was picked up by junior forward Austin Kamer, who immediately ripped a shot past Mann. Just minutes later, with a scramble in front of the net and the puck just sitting there, junior captain Tommy Apap buried his third goal of the season to put Michigan State up by three heading to the locker room after two periods of play.
The start of the third period was no different than the two that preceded it. Michigan had their chances, Lethemon turned them away. The Wolverines were awarded a power play, the Spartans killed it off. The Green and White got their first crack at a man-advantage with 8:30 remaining in the game, but were unable to capitalize. As time winded down, with the student section started chanting “Warm the buses!,” MSU would get their record back to .500. The team is starting to gel at the right time and are proving they can hang with anyone in the country.
“We’ve been preaching this,” Apap said. “We want to beat Michigan every time and we just believed this weekend that we could. Everyone’s playing together and it’s easier when everyone’s positive and encouraging each other.”
Now sitting at 3-1 in the conference, Michigan State will get ready to host No. 4 Notre Dame next weekend. The Fighting Irish will come to East Lansing for a two game series at Munn Ice Arena with Game 1 set for Friday night at 7 p.m.