The Lions (7-7) have battled all the way back to an even record after an 0-5 start and are now one of the hottest teams in college hockey. Using the constant pressure created by a high-flying offense, Guy Gadowsky’s squad was too much for the Spartans.
Oskar Autio played another solid game in net. Not only has he solidified his position as the starting goalie but now he has shown that he can step up in a tight game and match the effort of one of the better goalies in the country in Drew DeRidder.
Kevin Wall and Aarne Talvitie had a goal and an assist while the rest of the team skated swiftly, never allowing Michigan State to feel comfortable. Though it was just a 3-1 lead, the game had a feeling that it was over well before the final period began.
With the win, the team is now back to where it would want to be to be able to play for a post-season spot. The 0-5 start was harrowing for fans, knowing that the Lions had plenty of talent but simply needed to learn to play with one another. Had the losing streak continued, even a tremendous finish to the season may not have been enough.
Now all the Lions need to do is play slightly better than .500 hockey for the remainder of the season to make it back to the NCAA Tournament. With 10 of the next 12 games coming at home, that task will be a little easier.
Penn State will host Wisconsin this Thursday and Friday.
How It Happened
The Lions came out skating confident and fast as they had during the first game of the series. It took less than five minutes for the offensive pressure to pay off, as Evan Bell scored his second goal of the season on a shot from the corner. Goalie Drew DeRidder was surprised by the shot and also that it had enough room to get into the net from the angle that Bell let it go.
Michigan State didn’t let the early score get to them, as they continued to play the defensive-minded style that they prefer. The Lions drew the first penalty of the game but were able to kill it off without incident.
With a little under 3 minutes to go before the first intermission, Michigan State’s tactics appeared to be working as they tied the game. The Lions had control for most of the opening period, as they did on Friday night, only to see the game evened up just before the break.
During the second period it was more of the same, with the Lions controlling the action but the Spartans able to keep the game even. After successfully killing off two penalties, however, the mistakes finally cost the visiting team. A third penalty gave the Lions a chance to score what would become the game-winning goal.
After killing off 1:50 of the penalty, the Spartans went for a change and got caught with just two players on the ice. Aarne Talvitie took a pass from Kevin Wall and put it in the back of the net for his 5th of the season.
There was more than half the game to play but the goal seemed to lift the Lions to a level that Michigan State had trouble matching. The Spartans chased up and down the ice, trying to stay within striking range, knowing that their team averages under 3 goals scored per game. Another goal would all but end it and that goal came with 7 minutes to play before the final intermission.
Jimmy Dowd, Jr. sent the puck into a mass of bodies in front of the net and Kevin Wall pushed it in for the final goal of the game.
The Spartans had two more power plays but were unable to get a second goal past Oskar Autio. Autio made 21 saves on 22 shots, continuing his solid play over the past month. Autio matched one of the hottest goalies in the country, Drew DeRidder, save for save all weekend.