No. 17 Michigan State had many opportunities to put away No. 6 Penn State in the third period Friday night but a PSU goal with under a minute to play broke the Spartans’ hearts.
With a 3-2 lead five minutes into the third, the Spartans drew a five-minute major penalty with a chance to extend its lead. Instead senior forward Jagger Joshua took an interference minor 16 seconds later. Even with the three minutes of power play time, MSU could hardly set up in the offensive zone and the Nittany Lions stayed within one score.
Four minutes later, PSU’s junior defenseman Christian Berger tied it up with his second goal of the game.
With the game tied the Spartans drew a power play with 4:15 to go. Again Michigan State’s power play was a mess and couldn’t register a shot on goal.
Thirty seconds later sophomore defenseman David Gucciardi tripped up senior forward Kevin Wall. Michigan State couldn’t win a puck along the boards and senior forward Tyler Gratton scored with 56 seconds to play, leaving MSU without a point for the first time in six games.
MSU played strongly in the first five minutes of the game.
Red-hot senior forward Nico Müller forced an attacking zone turnover that set up a juicy chance for junior forward Jeremy Davidson. Seconds later Müller hooked a Penn State skater and the Nittany Lions went to the power play.
Graduate transfer goaltender Dylan St. Cyr made a handful of strong saves but the plethora of scoring chances ignited a flame for PSU.
Two minutes after the power play expired, junior defenseman Jimmy Dowd Jr. went coast-to-coast as the Spartans let him glide into the zone. Dowd’s backhander from a tough angle snuck past St. Cyr, giving Penn State a 1-0 lead.
But MSU quickly answered on a one-timer from the point by freshman defenseman Matt Basgall that beat PSU junior goaltender Liam Souliere.
Michigan State received its first power play of the night when Penn State was whistled for too many men. Müller won the puck in the corner and it found the stick of Joshua, who breezed toward the net and scored his sixth goal of the season. It was also Müller’s second assist of the night, giving the reigning Big Ten First Star of the Week his fifth and sixth points in the last three games.
Like it has many times this season, Michigan State played a sluggish second period. Penn State outshot the Spartans 14-4 in the frame but both teams walked away with their own goals.
PSU tied it up at 3:38 of the period on a shot from the blue line by Berger. But 23 seconds later Michigan State took the lead right back.
Fifth-year defenseman Cole Krygier took the puck from the half-wall and powered toward the net for the lead.
It was the last sign of life for Michigan State’s offense which registered just 12 shots on goal in the final two periods. Even with five minutes' worth of power play time in the third, Souliere was barely tested.
Still the Spartans clung onto a one-goal lead with six minutes to play thanks to some stellar saves from St. Cyr, who stopped 33 shots despite being sloppy a few different times handling the puck behind the net.
But it was Berger with his second goal through traffic from the point who tied it up. MSU’s failure to win a puck battle on the board left an unmarked Gratton in front of the net to give Penn State the win.
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Michigan State has a chance to split the series Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. from Pegula Ice Arena.
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