No. 19 Men’s Hockey Defeats Michigan State 4-2 In Big Ten Opener
No. 19 Penn State men’s hockey conquered Michigan State 4-2 on Friday in its Big Ten opener at Pegula. The ease of pre-conference play wore off early, but the Nittany Lions were up to the task. A questionable first period dissolved into a dominant second, where Penn State scored a season-high four goals. A late-game Michigan State resurgence threatened Penn State’s victory, but time ran out on the Spartans.
How It Happened
The Big Ten match started neck-and-neck as anticipated, with Michigan State goalie Jake Hildebrand controlling Penn State’s promising chances. A Michigan State tripping penalty put Penn State on its first powerplay of the game 11:52 into the first, but the Spartans killed it off. Although Penn State kept a narrow shot lead for majority of the period, Michigan State caught up to match its eight with three minutes left. At the one minute mark, Hildebrand robbed a flurry of five shots. The first period closed quietly, with unlit lamps all-around and a familiar Big Ten uncertainty in the air.
Penn State eradicated indecision 10 seconds into the second period, the quickest goal to start a period in program history. Andrew Sturtz wrapped around the net to score on a rare Hildebrand error for a 1-0 Penn State lead. Both teams flirted with puck control throughout the fast-paced period. Matt Skoff kept the Spartans scoreless with his point-blank 15th save of the game. David Goodwin capitalized on Penn State’s second powerplay of the game at 12:18. A red-hot Sturtz scored his second of the game and eighth of the season with 4:52 left in the period, then set Vince Pedrie up with a rebound 1:02 minutes later for a 4-0 lead. Skoff’s save of the game featured a goalie interference that sent Kevin Kerr tumbling over him into the net, putting the Nittany Lions on their third power play of the game. The clock ran out on them before they could capitalize, but Penn State exited the second with four goals, the most its scored in a single period this season.
The third period started with a Michigan State goalie swap. Kenny Brooks sent the Spartans on their first extra-man opportunity of the game 4:57 into the final period, but the Nittany Lions actively killed it off. A frustrated Michigan State slashed and tripped its way to two mid-period Penn State powerplays, but Penn State failed to capitalize. The Spartans displayed a newfound defensive prowess, protecting their replacement goalie more carefully than they did Hildebrand. Defensive momentum thrusted them into their offensive zone, robbing Skoff of a shutout with 6:09 left in regulation. The final 4-2 score availed when Michigan State struck again with :17 left to play, a result of a defensive lapse, not Skoff’s goaltending.
Player Of The Game
— Penn State Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) December 5, 2015
Andrew Sturtz managed to exceed his pre-season hype, leading both Penn State and Michigan State with two goals, one assist, and seven shots on the game.
“He’s so fun to watch, he’s got such a big heart, you just see his big heart skating around,” Gadowsky said in the post-game press conference. We agree, we think?
Penn State attempts a Michigan State sweep at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5 at Pegula.