Michigan State hockey (7-7-1) kicked off a four game homestand Friday night against No. 19 Wisconsin (7-9-1) at Munn Ice Arena. Looking to put a rough weekend against No. 7 Ohio State behind them, the green and white returned home seeking more offensive production against a Badger team loaded with talent.
Three goals from three different players mixed with a 41 save shutout from senior goaltender John Lethemon would give MSU a 3-0 win over Wisconsin, giving the team the bounce-back result they coveted.
"I thought our guys battled real hard," Head Coach Danton Cole said. "I thought we stuck together and kept the discipline...probably the thing I liked the best was the battle and being comfortable playing the game regardless of where the score was at."
The Spartans came out of the gate firing. Outshooting Wisconsin 9-2 just eight minutes into the first period, junior defenseman Tommy Miller would finally get one past Daniel Lebedeff to go up 1-0. Senior winger Logan Lambdin slid a pass through the slot to Miller, who connected on the one-timer for his first goal of the season with 11:49 remaining in the first.
Play evened out through the remainder of the first, and Wisconsin ended up outshooting MSU 17-13 at the end of the opening period. The Badgers were unable to capitalize on a power play opportunity with six minutes remaining, and Lethemon came up with a series of big saves to preserve the one goal lead heading into the locker room after the first.
The second period opened up with a cause for concern. Just over a minute in, senior defenseman Butrus Ghafari rushed back to the corner of the defensive zone to retrieve the puck. Facing the boards and his back turned, Ghafari was hit from behind by U-W forward Dylan Holloway. Ghafari was slow to get up and the play was reviewed to see if more serious action needed to be taken, but Holloway was just given a minor boarding penalty on the hit.
Freshman forward Jagger Joshua would get the scoring started for the home team in the second. A shot from sophomore center Adam Goodsir in the slot sailed wide, hitting the boards hard and bouncing right back out to Joshua, who buried the puck to put MSU up 2-0 with twelve minutes remaining in the period. The goal was the first of Joshua’s career.
With just 4:05 to go in the period, junior forward Brody Stevens added to the lead. After a scrum in front of the net and several players losing sight of the puck, junior captain Tommy Apap threw a puck on net that redirected out to Stevens. The initial putback was stopped by Lebedeff, but Stevens slid a backhander in on his second opportunity as Michigan State took a three goal lead into the third period.
The third period was paced by back-and-forth play, with both teams increasing the physicality of the game and exchanging big hits. Neither side could covert on their respective man-advantage opportunity of the period, and the Spartans battled through the final twenty minutes to secure the victory in the opener of the two game set with the Badgers.
"We really worked hard this week in practice and we were really focused tonight," Lethemon said. "I'm just really proud of the guys and the way we battled for sixty minutes."
The same two teams will meet again tomorrow night at Munn, with the Spartans looking to complete the series sweep. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.