UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Michigan State hockey team broke a 3-3 tie with two goals early in the third period and went on to defeat No. 11/10 Penn State, 6-4 on Saturday night at Pegula Ice Arena. Brennan Sanfordhad a career-high three points, including two goals and an assist, while John Lethemon made 40 saves.
“We did a better job tonight of throwing some pucks and the net,” MSU head coach Danton Cole said. “I think two of our first three goals were the result of getting pucks (to the net) and banging around – that’s where goals are scored.
“Defensively, even though we gave up four, I thought we did a good job.”
The Spartans (7-12-3, 3-7-2-2) never trailed and grabbed their first lead at the 7:25 mark of the first period. A hard forcheck by Logan Lambdin paved the way as he forced the puck free behind the Penn State net and pushed it out front. After several attempts, Lambdin was able to get it past goaltender Peyton Jones to make it 1-0.
Penn State (13-7-2, 5-6-1-1) made it 1-1 with 4:05 to go in the first period when Alec Marsh got the puck between the circles and let a low shot go that got under the pads of Lethemon.
The Spartans regained the lead in similar to fashion to their first goal with a hard forechecking effort. This time it was Sanford’s effort deep in the Penn State end that got the puck out front for Tommy Apap, who put it into the net with 51.7 seconds remaining in the period.
Michigan State didn’t let up and made it 3-1 with 5.2 seconds to play in the period. Sam Saliba forced the puck free to Patrick Khodorenko, who headed up ice along the right side. Khodorenko drew four Penn State players to him as he slowed up across the blue line and dished a perfect cross-ice pass to Taro Hirose, who whistled the puck upstairs with 5.2 seconds on the clock.
“It was a good turn of events there,” Cole said. “Khodorenko’s line was out there late with a short turnaround and Taro got the puck in the slot. As hard as it is for us to score goals, we got to three in the first and that was a lot. It was big coming in the locker room after that sequence.”
The point gave Hirose 100 for his career as he became the first Spartan since Tim Crowder (2005-09) to reach the century mark. He added an assist later in the game to push his career total to 101.
After outshooting Penn State 14-9 in the first period, the Nittany Lions pushed back in the second, scoring twice to make it 3-3.
A power play helped Penn State get some momentum early in the second. The Spartans extinguished the power play, but moments later with Penn State still in the MSU zone, a rebound popped out to Chase Berger, who put it in the net to make it 3-2 at the 4:42 mark.
Penn State got a goal on its next man-advantage as Berger scored on a shot from the right point to tie the game 3-3 with 2:28 to play in the period.
The tie didn’t last long in the third as Lambdin and Sanford combined to make it 4-3 just 1:34 into the stanza. Lambdin scooped up the puck from a PSU defenseman at the MSU blue line and raced the other way. Lambdin made a behind-the-back pass to Sanford, who then let go a low wrister through the five-hole of Jones.
Michigan State got its first power play a few minutes later and took advantage to regain a two-goal lead. Cody Milan – off a feed from Hirose – sent the puck from the left circle cross-ice to Mitchell Lewandowski, who one-timed it in from just off the right post to make it 5-3 at the 6:43 mark.
The Nittany Lions got another power-play goal, this time from Nate Sucese, with 6:32 to play to make it 5-4.
PSU pressed the Spartans in the final two minutes, pulling Jones for the extra attacker. The Spartans held off the Lions’ charge and Sanford sealed with win with an empty-net goal with 24 seconds to play.
Penn State finished with a 44-37 edge in shots on goal.
The Spartans are home next weekend to host Minnesota on Saturday and Sunday at Munn Ice Arena.
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