The year 2021 did not start out the way the Michigan State ice hockey team had hoped after falling 1-0 on Sunday to Penn State. However, the Spartans were able to right the ship Monday with a 5-1 victory over Penn State at Munn Ice Arena.
Game 1 recap
Michigan State started off flying in the first period putting 13 shots on net. In the last two periods though, the offense disappeared as they would only register 10 shots on goal in the last 40 minutes.
All it took on Sunday was one bad mistake in the first period by MSU defenseman Powell Connor to cast the eventual spell of a 1-0 defeat for the Spartans.
Drew DeRidder was solid again in net stopping 28 shots and allowing one goal.
The struggle for Michigan State came on the other end of the ice on offense. Even playing against a Penn State team that had previously struggled at the goaltender position was not enough for the Spartans to score a goal. MSU registered only 23 shots on goal as PSU’s starting goaltender Oskar Autio got the shutout victory.
No A.J. Hodges, Adam Goodsir or Tommy Apap, no problem
For Game 2, Michigan State remained without first line forward Hodges and fourth line forward Goodsir after also being scratches for Game 1. The surprise came when senior center Apap was a late scratch after going through warmups.
Head Coach Danton Cole said after the game that Apap had some “bumps and bruises” from Sunday’s game, but they decided it was best for him to sit out Monday. He is expected to be back in the lineup this weekend.
Without those three forwards, who have combined for eight points thus far, the Spartans had to look for other players to step up and provide offense. Jagger Joshua and Gianluca Esteves did step up by scoring separate goals, both their first of the season, giving them a 2-0 lead going into the second period.
Penn State cut the MSU lead in half about six and a half minutes into the second period on a powerplay goal by the Nittany Lions’ leading scorer Alex Limoges.
After that, things got weird in a hurry. Just 38 seconds later, Penn State’s Clayton Phillips would receive a five minute major and a game misconduct after a vicious hit to Mitchell Lewandowski that left him slow to get up.
Michigan State took advantage of the long powerplay with a goal from Joshua, his second of the game, giving them their two goal lead back.
Six minutes later though, it was Michigan State who was guilty of their own five minute major penalty. This time it was forward Charlie Combs, the Spartans leading goal scorer, who was ejected from the game for a hit to the head.
However, MSU was able to kill the red hot Penn State powerplay now without four of their usual starting forwards.
Penn State put on lots of pressure in the third period, refusing to go away without a fight. They would outshoot Michigan State 13-3 in the third, but solid play by DeRidder in net would keep them from scoring.
Brody Stevens put the game on ice with his first goal of the year with about five minutes remaining, the third MSU player to score their first goal of the season Monday.
“It’s definitely good to see those guys score and get on the board for us," defenseman Dennis Cesana said after the game. "Obviously, they are not known for that and that’s totally fine. They excel in other areas of the game."
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Lewandowski followed it up with an empty net goal to put the icing on the cake of a 5-1 victory.
DeRidder strong in net
It is starting to become a recurring theme for the 2020-21 season, but DeRidder was fantastic in the net once again this weekend. Across the two games versus Penn State, he allowed two goals with 64 saves.
The performance this weekend against Penn State is especially impressive given the opponent. Coming into Monday, Penn State was scoring 3.11 goals per game, a wild difference compared to the Spartans 1.78 goals per game.
With the 5-1 score, it is perhaps easy to say MSU did not have to rely much on DeRidder to bail them out like they have in games earlier in the year. However, the game was much closer than the score indicates, and he was a key factor in deterring a PSU comeback from an explosive offense.
“He was outstanding, and one thing with Penn State I thought he did a really good job was he didn’t give up a lot of second chances,” Cole said. “They funnel a lot of pucks to the net, and if he can get them up into the netting for a whistle or freeze it for a whistle or at least keep it below the goal line, it really helps you out defensively.”
Michigan State now moves to 4-4-2 on the season and will have a quick turnaround going to play Michigan in Ann Arbor on Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. and then at home in East Lansing on Jan. 9 at 4:30 p.m.
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