A late third-period collapse extended Michigan State hockey’s (14-17-1) losing streak to four games as they fell to No. 12 Ohio State (18-10-4) 4-2 Saturday night at Munn Ice Arena.
There was a lively atmosphere for Senior Night, as the team celebrated nine players battling in their final regular season home game for the green and white. Senior forward Patrick Khodorenko and freshman Jagger Joshua found the back of the net for the Spartans, while senior goaltender John Lethemon finished with 37 saves, a day after being scratched due to illness.
“In the big time of the game they were able to make plays, and we didn’t,” coach Danton Cole said. “I thought our guys battled. We did a lot of things real well.”
The Spartans were victims of a bad break in last night’s game, but were finally able to create some puck luck of their own midway through the first period Saturday night. Senior captain Sam Saliba had the puck behind the net and dished a backhanded pass in front to junior Mitchell Lewandowski, who had a clear look at the net.
Lewandowski’s shot rang off the post, causing the puck to remain in midair for what seemed like an eternity. Khodorenko was in the right place at the right time, using his stick as a baseball bat and swatting in his 16th goal of the season to put MSU up 1-0 with 7:07 to go in the first.
Just three minutes later, the Buckeyes were awarded their first power play opportunity of the night. 15 seconds into the man-advantage, OSU forward Quinn Preston tied the game back up at one. Set up in front of the net, Preston took a pass from the corner by teammate Tanner Laczynski. Preston’s initial shot was rejected by Lethemon, but the Buckeye sophomore put home his own rebound to even things up.
The green and white responded in a big way late in the period, forcing a turnover in the offensive zone as the puck found its way to Khodorenko once again. Coming in on net, Khodorenko deked out OSU goaltender Tommy Napier and slid a pass at the last second to Joshua, who scored his second goal of the season to put Michigan State up 2-1 heading into the second.
The second period was relatively quiet, but the pace of play was controlled by the Spartans, for the most part. After being outshot 23 to 12 after twenty minutes of play, MSU outshot the Buckeyes 13-9 in the second, while also elevating their physicality. Despite all the action, the score remained 2-1 with the third period on the horizon.
For the first 15 minutes of the third, it seemed as if the Spartans were going to come away with a narrow victory. With 4:49 remaining in the third, that all changed as the game took a drastic turn. OSU forward Jaedon Leslie got the Buckeyes back on the board when he threw a puck on net from behind the goal line that went through Lethemon’s five-hole to tie the game 2-2.
Ohio State had all the momentum, and just over a minute later, they would take the lead for good. As the two teams battled for possession in the Buckeye’s offensive zone, OSU forward Carson Meyer came away with the puck, creating a 2-on-1. Meyer quickly passed the puck over to Laczynski, who fired a shot past Lethemon to put Ohio State up 3-2.
MSU pulled Lethemon with just over a minute left, and the Buckeyes tacked on a late empty-net goal to secure the 4-2 victory and series sweep.
Michigan State will close out the regular season next weekend, when they will travel to take on Notre Dame. Game one is set for 7 p.m. on Feb. 28.
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