After a crushing 4-3 defeat last night at the hands of No. 16 Arizona State (9-5-2), No. 18 Michigan State (9-8-1) hit the ice Sunday afternoon looking to salvage a series split with the Sun Devils. The game was the last for the Spartans before a two week holiday break heading into the Great Lakes Invitational Dec. 30.
Riding the heels of a 36-save shutout by senior goaltender John Lethemon and an overtime goal from junior winger Mitchell Lewandowski, the Spartans were able to take down ASU 1-0 Sunday.
“It was a really good hockey game,” coach Danton Cole said. “If the guys want to know what an NCAA playoff game feels like, that’s how it was. Both teams battling for every inch of the ice. Two good hockey teams, Arizona State is good.”
The green and white were without sophomore defenseman Christian Krygier, as he left for Plymouth following last night’s game to attend camp for the U.S. National Junior Team. Senior Anthony Scarsella replaced Krygier on the second defensive pair alongside sophomore Cole Krygier, Christian’s twin brother.
Following the conclusion of last night’s game, the two teams got into it. Both teams had reasons to be frustrated. Though Arizona State had won the game, it had given up a two-goal lead after dominating most of the first period. The Spartans had fought their way back into the game and had a two-man advantage late in the third period as they tried to tie things up, but they would ultimately come up short.
That frustration boiled over into Sunday’s game, as it seemed like after every whistle there was a scrum between two players somewhere on the ice. The two teams combined for seven penalties in the first period, with several of them carrying over into the second period. Neither team was able to convert on their respective man-advantages and the game was scoreless after the opening twenty minutes of play.
The second period was much of the same. Big hits were delivered, quality scoring chances were turned away, and no goals were scored. The goaltenders were the highlight of the game through forty minutes, with ASU sophomore Evan Debrouwer and Lethemon collecting 21 and 26 saves, respectively. There was a feel to the game that signaled both teams lacking energy, with the Spartans looking forward to a couple weeks off after a daunting schedule through the first half of the season.
The energy picked up in the third period. With just 1:30 remaining in the game, the green and white would get one of their best scoring opportunities of the night. Freshman winger Jagger Joshua brought the puck in through the left side of the offensive zone with just one defender between him and the net. He quickly fed a pass to junior forward Brody Stevens, who had a clear look at the net. Stevens sailed the puck wide, and a collective sigh from the crowd at Munn Ice Arena followed. The Spartans just couldn’t buy a goal and the game would head to overtime.
As time wound down in the extra frame, the two players MSU relies on the most for offensive production came through in the clutch yet again. Senior center Patrick Khodorenko battled for possession of the puck behind the net with just under two minutes left. After beating his defender, he slid the puck out in front to Lewandowski. Lewandowski shifted the puck to his backhand and put one past Debrouwer to give Michigan State a well-deserved win heading into the holiday season.
“It feels good,” Lewandowski said. “The game paced out pretty slow today, I don’t know what the deal with that was. To take it into overtime 0-0 and come out with a win is big for our team.”
Michigan State will now get a couple of weeks off before hitting the ice at Little Caesars Arena to play Michigan Tech Dec. 30 in the opener of the Great Lakes Invitational. Puck drop is set for 1 p.m.