Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Wisconsin breaks tie late to finish off No. 20 Michigan State hockey 3-1

January 19, 2020
Senior Forward Sam Saliba (10) chases the puck during the game against Wisconsin at the Munn Ice Arena on December 6, 2019.  The Spartans defeated the Badgers 3-0.
Senior Forward Sam Saliba (10) chases the puck during the game against Wisconsin at the Munn Ice Arena on December 6, 2019. The Spartans defeated the Badgers 3-0. —
Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

No. 20 Michigan State hockey (12-11-1) was unable to complete a regular season sweep of Wisconsin (9-12-1), falling 3-1 to the Badgers Saturday night.

Taking a 1-1 tie into the final two minutes of the game, U-W forward Roman Ahcan scored the game-winning goal at the 17:52 mark of the final period, and the Spartans were unable to find the equalizer. Senior forward Sam Saliba scored the lone goal for MSU and senior goaltender John Lethemon finished with 35 saves.

"You give up a goal on the first shift and that can be tough to battle back from, but we did, and got on the board, and I thought we pressed through and got it into a tight game at the end of the third,” coach Danton Cole said, according to a statement from the university athletics website. "We had the puck all alone right in front of the net and couldn't get it to go, so it's a tough one.”

The Badgers found the back of the net early after being unable to do so the night before, scoring less than 30 seconds into the game. U-W freshman Owen Lindmark collected his fifth goal of the season, finding the puck during a scramble in front of the net and firing it past Lethemon to give Wisconsin the early advantage.

It didn’t take long for the green and white to respond. Eight minutes into the opening period, Saliba would get the Spartans on the board, scoring his fifth goal in the last six games to knot the score at one. That would prove to be all the Michigan State offense could muster up against U-W goaltender Daniel Lebedeff, as he would shut them down for the rest of the game.

Despite four power play opportunities between the two teams in the second period, neither team capitalized and the 1-1 score was carried into the third.

With just over two minutes remaining in the game, Ahcan carried the puck in the offensive zone by himself, maneuvered around the defense and found a seam to put the Badgers on the brink of victory. The Spartans pulled Lethemon to gain the extra attacker late in the game, but U-W forward Ty Pelton-Byce scored the dagger and buried the empty-net goal to seal the win.

"You have to bounce back and that's what our guys have to do on Monday and start getting ready for Penn State,” Cole said in the statement.

The loss dropped MSU to a tie for second place in the Big Ten standings with Penn State, who the Spartans will face next weekend at Munn Ice Arena. Game one is set for 7 p.m. on Friday.

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