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Spartans 4, Penn State 2: Saturday Night Will Be Must See TV On BTN

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Penn State played well but it will be little consolation to the team, on a four-game conference stretch without a win.

Heather Weikel | Black Shoe Diaries

Goals By Period

Team 1st 2nd 3rd OT Final
Team 1st 2nd 3rd OT Final
Penn State 0 1 1 xx 2
Michigan State 1 1 2 xx 4

Michigan State moved into first place in the Big Ten standings with a home win on opening night of the series. It will be very important for the Lions to get points on Saturday. Another weekend without a win would be tough to take for the veteran team.

The second game of the series will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network on Saturday night at 6 p.m. It should be very entertaining.

The first period was evenly played but Michigan State got the only goal. There must have been a heck of a speech during the first intermission in the Penn State locker room, because the team came out playing inspired hockey in the second period, holding a 17-2 advantage in shots on goal. It only translated to one score.

Michigan State got the next goal and it was too much to overcome with another great performance in net by John Lethemon. Tyler Gratton added a late goal for the Lions.

Captain Brandon Biro has missed the last few weekends and he did not make the trip to East Lansing. Clayton Phillips left the game with an injury. It will be a gut check for the team and fans will be able to sit back and watch on television. It could get very intense as the teams fight for first place in the conference.

How It Happened

Penn State came out ready to play but Michigan State’s defensive style slowed them down for the opening period. The Spartans had a 7-3 advantage in shots on goal at the midway point. Clayton Phillips slid into the boards pretty hard and he was seen going to the locker room, he did not return. Thankfully the extra skater was defenseman Alex Stevens.

Michigan State got the first power play of the game with 7:44 to play before the first intermission. Alex Stevens made a huge impact on the penalty kill, reaching back and grabbing a pass that would have been a power play goal had it got through.

There were several close calls such as that while the Spartans continued to outshoot the Lions 13-5 with 3 minutes to play. Michigan State finally made it pay off when Patrick Khodorenko blasted a one-timer over the glove of Peyton Jones on a 3 on 2 break off a turnover in the neutral zone.

Nate Sucese got robbed twice in the first minute of the second period by goalie John Lethemon, once on a clean breakaway. Denis Smirnov nearly scored on a tipped shot a couple of minutes later. Just three minutes into the second frame it was a 7-0 Penn State advantage in shots on goal.

Penn State continued to keep the pressure on, as much of the play was on Michigan State’s side of the ice, a 12-0 shot on goal advantage for Guy Gadowsky’s squad. Aarne Talvitie whiffed on a point-blank shot in the midst of another flurry of scoring chances but Lethemon and the Spartans held on.

Patrick Khodorenko got a clean breakaway and after the Lions dominated the first 14 minutes of the period, they trailed 2-0. The goal was the first shot of the frame for MSU. Cole Hults broke his stick in frustration on the bench and it was what the entire Penn State team was feeling.

Penn State got its first power play of the game shortly after and they peppered Lethemon with shots but they were unable to score. Hults used a different stick with time winding down in the period to score, cutting the deficit to one goal.

The Lions continued to dominate the period and other than a momentary lapse that cost the team a goal, it was the best twenty minutes that the team had played in weeks. Had there been a goalie other than John Lethemon in net, they would have had a lead heading into the final period instead of trailing.

Patrick Khodorenko nearly got his third goal in the opening minute of the final period on a shot that bled through Peyton Jones and skittered just wide of the net. Penn State had an odd-man rush shortly after and both teams were skating fast from end to end.

While it looked even in that Michigan State was running alongside the Lions, it was the tempo that Penn State wanted to play. It had the feeling that it was about to turn in their favor but then Michigan State scored again. With 12:12 the team trailed by two goals after dominating much of the game.

Penn State responded by playing even faster than they had been. It resulted in increased scoring chances for both teams. Eventually it cost the Lions a penalty and with 8 minutes left they skated down a player, down two goals. Patrick Khodorenko scored his third goal and hats came flying on the ice from the stands.

Penn State pulled Peyton Jones for an extra skater, down 3 with just under 6 minutes to play. Nikita Pavlychev was called for interfering with the goalie on a made goal and there was a lengthy review with 2:38 to play. The call stood.

Pavlychev made contact with Lethemon but it didn’t appear that he was in the crease when it happened. Guy Gadowsky was not happy with the call that cost his team a chance to cut the lead to 2. Tyler Gratton added a goal late but it was too little too late.