In Michigan State Head Coach Adam Nightingale’s first game behind the bench, Michigan State hockey suffered a 4-3 loss to the US National Team Development Program during an exhibition matchup at the newly-renovated Munn Ice Arena.
After a slow start to the first half of the game, MSU rallied in the third period to trail USNTDP by one, but the late attempt at a comeback victory fell short.
At the end of the night, the Spartans racked up 37 shots, won 30 of 52 faceoffs, made 23 saves, nine blocks and were ultimately 1-3 in power plays.
With under seven minutes to go in the first period, USNTDP forward Will Smith scored with help from forward Ryan Leonard putting team USA on the board first.
Michigan State was unable to answer Smith’s goal with one of its own, but ended the first period trailing 1-0.
Sophomore center Jesse Tucker spent a combined four minutes in the penalty box after getting called for unsportsmanlike conduct and slashing following an on-ice tussle with USNTDP defenseman Kai Janviriya.
Janviriya earned two minutes of his own in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Spartans trailed Team USA by one until midway through the second period when freshman forward Karsen Dorwart scored MSU’s first goal of the night, tying the game 1-1.
Freshman forwards Daniel Russel and Tieran Shoudy assisted Dorwart on the play.
That goal was not only the first of the season for MSU, but it was also the first of Dorwart’s collegiate hockey career.
“It was awesome,” Dorwart said after the game. “Definitely one I’ll remember for a long time.”
Dorwart said the intense home atmosphere created by the fans at Munn added to his excitement during the game.
“I was saying in there that's the most fired up I've ever been to play a game in my life,” Dorwart said. “It was just crazy loud even for just a preseason game.”
MSU earned possession of the puck first in the third period after struggling throughout the second period to gain momentum following three straight goals from the USNTDP.
The Spartans struggled to stay in the game during the final period as the scoreboard read 4-1, until Shoudy scored MSU’s second goal of the night.
Thanks to Shoudy’s efforts with help from graduate forward Justin Jallen and Nico Müller, MSU trailed by two 2:55 into the third period.
With 12 new players on the team, Shoudy said it took MSU some time to get used to playing with one another, but they got into a groove toward the end of the game.
“We haven't got to play with each other that long and those guys have been playing together for a year now,” Shoudy said. “It was our first game … you can go as hard as you want in practice but the games are always a little bit different. So just getting our legs under us and then getting used to playing with guys and you could tell the chemistry was clicking the third.”
Junior forward Jeremy Davidson contributed to MSU’s comeback efforts with a goal of his own 5:44 into the third period, assisted by senior forward Erik Middendorf and sophomore Tanner Kelly.
Senior forward Jagger Joshua spent two minutes in the penalty box as well after he was called for cross-checking late in the third period.
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Shortly after that Tucker went back to the penalty box following his second unsportsmanlike conduct call of the night.
Despite its comeback victory efforts, MSU wasn’t able to overcome the scoring deficit and lost to the USNTDP.
All in all, MSU ended the game with six penalties, a factor Nightingale said the team needs to work on moving forward.
“We gotta make sure we stay out of the box,” Nightingale said.
Graduate forward and team captain Miroslav Mucha said he liked the way MSU rallied toward the end of the game to try and close the scoring gap, but that there is room for improvement.
“There's definitely some things we need to clean up; playing away from the puck,” Mucha said. “I really liked how we stepped up and played our way. We got our chance and we scored a couple goals late and it’s too bad we couldn’t get a final one tonight.”
Mucha transferred to MSU from Lake Superior State before the start of the season and said he was honored to receive the captain label in his first year with the team.
“It's a huge honor to be leading this great group of guys,” Mucha said. “Any of those guys could have had it. I mean, we play for one another. We play as a group. It's not an individual sport.”
Nightingale said Mucha is a “team guy” and that the decision to make him captain was a combination of input from players and staff members based on his selflessness and experience as a veteran hockey player.
“I think when you're going through where we're at and building our program, I want him to be the example for everyone,” Nightingale said. “He's one of the guys on our team that’s played in an NCAA tournament, and I think for us, that's a huge for him to be able to be around our guys and influence that way.”
With a mostly new and younger team, Nightingale said MSU “expected” a slower start to the game but he loved the resilience he saw from the players.
“I think the third period is what we're going to be as a team … I loved that our guys stuck with it and it shows that their conditioning is paying off,” Nightingale said. “I thought we made quite a few plays and had some good chances.”
MSU is set to face Bowling Green in its first regular season matchup of the season on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at Munn Ice Arena.
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