Michigan State hockey (3-5) earned a series split this weekend on the road against No. 6 Penn State (7-2).
On Friday night, the green and white won 2-0 behind a strong performance from John Lethemon. The senior goaltender collected a career high of 48 saves as the team was able to get their first conference win of the season. It looked as if spending the week in practice focusing on special teams worked out for the Spartans, as they were able to kill off 3 Penn State power plays and only took 4 penalties themselves after accumulating 15 in two games last weekend against Cornell.
Senior forward Patrick Khodorenko got the scoring started in the second period when he put home his second goal of the season, and the team never looked back. Senior winger Logan Lambdin provided insurance late in the third period with his second tally of the season, as the Spartans squeaked out just enough offense on a night where Lethemon brought his A-game. The team was outshot 48-24 on the night and also picked up an additional 31 blocked shots.
"I thought tonight everyone was relentless and resolute,” head coach Danton Cole said. “(Lethemon) was just outstanding. Every time we slipped or made a mistake he was there. You don't fluke a shutout against Penn State, you're going to have some big-time saves."
Saturday night didn’t go as well. The team was unable to make a late comeback, falling 6-4 in the second and final game of the series. The highlight of the night was the play of Khodorenko, as he picked up 2 goals and 1 assist, including this highlight-reel tally late in the second period.
Down 2-0 after one period of play, junior forward Mitch Lewandowski would get the green and white on the board on the power play early in the second period. Penn State would respond with 3 unanswered goals of their own and, after a late Khodorenko goal, the team went to the locker room down 5-2 after 2. Sophomore defenseman Dennis Cesana would bring the Spartans closer with an unassisted goal midway through the third period, and Khodorenko put home his team-leading fourth goal of the season and second of the night to make it a one goal game just minutes later. It proved to be too little too late, however, as Penn State scored an empty-net goal to make it 6-4 and seal a split on the weekend.
Converting on 2 of their 5 power plays, it was another solid night on special teams for the Spartans. Lethemon got the start in net again, this time allowing 5 goals on 30 shots faced. Cole was pleased with the overall effort of the team and credited their resiliency in fighting back.
"I don't have any complaints on our guys,” Cole said. “I thought our guys played really hard. They kept getting better every period, I thought. In the third, they played a heck of a period and we gave ourselves a chance there at the end."
Michigan State will now get ready for a home-and-home set with Michigan, starting Thursday in Ann Arbor. Puck drop is set for 6:30 p.m.
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