If a team is in the need of fixing a slumping penalty kill, there are two extreme options that can be taken. Either they can commit few penalties to keep your killers off the ice, or they can commit an absurd amount of penalties with the off-chance that it somehow gets figured out.
Michigan State chose the latter, and it did not work out. The Spartans committed 10 penalties, surrendering two power-play goals. Fifth-year defenseman Cole Krygier received a 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the second period, but later returned as the hero, scoring the overtime winner in a furious 3-2 come-from-behind victory over No. 5 Penn State.
The Spartans made tweaks to the bottom-6, scratching sophomore forward Jesse Tucker and bringing Merrimack transfer Ryan Nolan into the lineup for the first time this season as the extra skater. Senior forward Erik Middendorf also bumped up to the third line, playing left wing alongside freshman center Tiernan Shoudy and sophomore forwardTanner Kelly.
Michigan State started the game by committing a pair of penalties in the first seven minutes, but the reeling Spartan penalty kill began the night with two kills to gather some momentum.
Then at 11:17, MSU got its first chance at a power play when Penn State senior forward Ashton Calder tripped up freshman forward Karsen Dorwart from behind on the rush. Michigan State had a clear strategy of feeding Middendorf, who hasn’t scored since Nov. 19 after scoring 12 goals last season, with one-timers from the right circle. He unleashed four of them, but none of them reached Penn State junior goaltender Liam Souliere. Sophomore defenseman David Gucciardi also made a phenomenal catch at the blue line to extend a long MSU attack, but the Spartans couldn’t break Souliere and both teams entered the intermission scoreless.
Michigan State came out flat to start the second, despite ending the first period strongly and starting the period on the power play. Turnovers were aplenty – particularly egregious one’s by Kelly and freshman defenseman Matt Basgall – and so were penalties.
Basgall was whistled for a questionable interference penalty at 5:24 of the second period, then graduate transfer defenseman Michael Underwood cross-checked a Penn State skater eight seconds later to create a long 5-on-3.
39 seconds later, freshman defenseman Jarod Crespo’s wrister beat graduate transfer goaltender Dylan St. Cyr and Penn State took a 1-0 lead.
The second period penalties weren’t over after MSU surrendered its eighth power-play goal in six games. The Spartans earned two power plays of their own, again not fooling Souliere, but left the second period without their assistant captain.
At 14:15 of the period, Kryiger was beaten badly to the net by PSU defenseman Paul DeNaples. Krygier grabbed a hold of DeNaples, prompting a delayed penalty. Once Krygier touched the puck to initiate the whistle, he fired the puck at the glass toward a nearby official – perhaps unintentionally – then had some keen words for the referee on the way to the penalty box. He was assessed a 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on top of the holding minor, keeping him out of the game until midway through the third period.
Michigan State entered the third period trailing 1-0 and again committed a slew of penalties. Freshman forward Daniel Russell committed an interference minor, but the most crushing blow came one minute later when Gucciardi received a five-minute major for cross-checking that temporarily forced MSU to skate with four defenseman while Kryiger served his 10-minute penalty.
Shortly after, senior forward Ture Linden was left unmarked on the backdoor and Penn State took a 2-0 lead.
But to Michigan State’s credit, the overall frustration of constantly killing penalties ignited a furious comeback. Middendorf cut the lead to 2-1 on his first goal since Nov. 19. Then at 13:11, senior forward Jagger Joshua corralled his own rebound and tied the game.