Michigan State hockey has been off to a hot start this season after two home sweeps for their first two home series for the first time since the season of 2005.
While the Spartans made a valiant effort all around this weekend, winning the first game 6-3 and the second 4-3, one thing that stuck out the most for the squad was the efficiency of the penalty kill unit during the highly penalized series. There was a total of 56 Spartan penalty minutes between the two games, but MSU only allowed two goals on seventeen penalties and even garnered two short-handed goals.
The two short-handed goals marked the first time any Michigan State hockey team had two in one game since Feb. 11, 2017.
“Anytime you can get a short handed goal it brings momentum to your team,” graduate forward Reed Lebster said. “They (Canisius) were pushing us a little bit there, so our goal was good momentum for us, so I was happy to provide that for the team.”
The first short-hander came in the second period, when Lebster had a breakaway to send one home. The second came in the final period, when senior defenseman Nash Nienhuis and freshman defenseman Artyom Levshunov played a game of tic-tac-toe down the ice, and Nienhuis was able to send one off the side from a rebound shot, giving them the game sealing goal while playing down two men on a penalty kill.
With freshman goalie Luca Di Pasquo between the pipes for his first start for MSU in game two, he had to save the 33 shots on goal that Canisius took to them Friday, only allowing one goal on the penalty kill with 42 minutes worth of penalties.
“A lot of blocked shots was a part of our huge success on the kill,” Di Pasquo said. “Once you start getting a couple five minute penalty kills, you have to trust each other, and trust that the D (defensemen) are going to do what they have to do.”
The team has an important series on the horizon next weekend, and that penalty kill could come in handy for the team.
“First and foremost, you have to kill it (the penalty) off, and we have some depth with guys, and the ability to kill. Tanner Kelly and Gavin O'Connell went out there and did a heck of a job, a great stand, and great on the forecheck. I think that speaks a lot for our team,” Nightingale said.
As outstanding as the MSU penalty kill has been, staying out of the penalty box and off the kill would make the Spartan's job easier.
“We have to stay out of the box, and that's going to happen sometimes,” Nightingale said. “We have to play hard, but we have to play smart because you can’t put yourself in those positions, and our guys know that.”
With three weekends in the books for the season, the Spartans take their 5-1 record with them on the road again to Boston College on Thursday, Oct. 26 and Friday, Oct. 27, where they put their talent and hard-work to the test against the No. 4 ranked college hockey program.
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