After an 0-5 start to the season, Guy Gadowsky’s team is back in position to fight for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. With four consecutive wins the team could get to .500 on Monday with a series sweep. In a competitive Big Ten hockey league, breaking even could be enough to get to the post-season once the dust settles at the end of the conference tournament.
Oskar Autio faced 13 shots in the first period, stopping them all, setting the tone in net. Many of the saves were tough; had Autio given up a goal or two no one would have blamed him. The team responded by playing much tighter on defense, allowing just 10 shots to make it on net for the final two periods.
Sam Sternschein had the lone goal between the two teams, coming on a fluke turnover in front of the Michigan State goalie.
The Spartans play a tough, defense-oriented game and they were able to keep the contest a low-scoring affair, which allowed them to hang with Penn State, who prefers to play a much more loose style of play. It will be interesting to see if the Lions will be able to speed up the tempo in the next game.
The teams will play game two of the series on Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. The game can be seen on BTN+, which for a $10 subscription will get you close to ten games over the next month. The BTN+ application allows you to watch the game later if you are not around for the afternoon start, which can come in handy.
How It Happened
The Spartans came out ready to play at home and they controlled much of the opening portion of the game. After one period the Lions trailed 13-9 in shots on goal but they led 1-0 in the box score due to a freak turnover in Michigan State’s defensive zone.
Following a scoring chance at Penn State’s end of the ice that led to a skirmish after the whistle, Sam Sternschein was gifted a loose puck right in front of the net. You can see goalie Oskar Autio block the puck and then throw a couple of punches as the MSU player tried to continue the play. Once the puck was dropped, the Lions secured the face-off and cleared it on a one-man break with Sternschein playing the puck in the zone while his line mates made a change. Some puck luck got the puck on Sternschein’s stick and from there he put it in the back of the net.
Penn State was able to turn the tide in the second period, leading 9-7 in shots on goal by the end of the frame. While there weren’t many pucks making it to the goalies, each team had six blocks to that point in the game and the action was end to end non-stop.
The Lions had the lone penalty of the game through two periods and were able to kill the time with ease thanks to some solid goal-tending by Oskar Autio. The one-goal lead was enough to keep Guy Gadowsky’s team on top heading into the third period.
The Lions took a 23-20 lead in shots on goal by keeping MSU from getting their first shot on Autio until the 8 minutes were off the clock in the final period. The offensive side of the puck dominated the middle of the period as both teams skated freely from end to end, with the Spartans trying to get a tying goal before time got short and the Lions enjoying some open ice for the first time all day.
PSU only allowed 2 shots on net through the first 18 minutes of the final period, protecting Autio by keeping the puck at the other side of the ice and blocking shots in the defensive zone. It was a great defensive effort, the team matching MSU’s approach since the game was not the normal wide-open style that Guy Gadowsky’s team prefers to play.
With 1:12 to go MSU pulled its goalie in favor of an extra skater. There was a flurry of shots toward the net in the first attempt for the Spartans in their zone but only one reached Autio. With 36 seconds to play each team took a penalty, so they skated 4 on 4.
Ian Snell got a penalty for defending his teammate, who took a tough hit. The play happened on Michigan State’s end of the ice so for the face-off, the goalie had to come back on the ice. The puck eventually made it to Penn State’s side of the ice as time expired but the Lions were able to hold on for the shutout.