Two distinct themes have been front and center for Penn State hockey in what is already the most successful season in the program's brief three years at the NCAA level. The first has been the rate with which they put the puck on the net. Entering tonight's game in Munn Ice Arena against Michigan State, the Nittany Lions averaged a ridiculous 41 shots on goal per game. The second has been the ability to quickly make up deficits late in games and finding a way to win. Since January 9, PSU has potted 20 goals in the 3rd period. Neither one would come to pass in a 3-0 loss to the Spartans.
Penn State was forced to rely on P.J. Musico early and often, with the Spartans putting 14 pucks on the senior goaltender in the first period, many of them on quality chances. But going to the first intermission, the Lions had to have felt fortunate to be even at 0. PSU put nine shots on senior MSU netminder Jake Hildebrand (a Butler, PA native), but not many dangerous opportunities.
Michigan State's Mackenzie MacEachern was the best skater on the ice for either team throughout the night, and opened the scoring midway through the second period. Musico gave up a small rebound in front on the net, and the sophomore forward beat everyone else to the loose puck and put it behind the Lions' goalie. Nearly three minutes later, MSU would pounce on a bad turnover at the PSU blueline, with JT Stenglein firing it past Musico on a virtual 2-on-0 rush.
Those two goals would be all the Spartans would need with Hildebrand on his game. PSU's best chance on the night game early on the third period, with the Lions coming out of the dressing room with as much energy as they had all night. Eric Scheid found himself on a partial breakaway, but the senior MSU goalie's right pad kept the Lions scoreless. MSU would get the insurance tally shortly after, with MacEachern feeding Matt DeBlouw for a pretty one-timer goal from the slot that beat Musico cleanly over the glove, setting up the 3-0 final.
The series wraps up on Saturday at 6:00 on BTN.
1 - Jake Hildebrand - The senior from Butler, PA did not face a ton of pressure, but was stellar when called upon and shut out a PSU offense that had been flying.
2 - Mackenzie MacEachern - His 2nd period goal to open the scoring ended up as the game winner, and he set up a big third goal for the Spartans. Big night for the sophomore.
3 - PJ Musico - If not for Musico, this one would have been out of hand early. The senior has been very good of late, but may cede the net for Saturday's series finale.