No. 9 Penn State Hockey Drops 4-2 Decision Against No. 19 Michigan State
No. 9 Penn State hockey (16-8-1, 8-6-1 Big Ten) opened its series against No. 19 Michigan State (12-11-1, 9-5-1 Big Ten) with a 4-2 defeat on Friday night.
Cole Hults and Tyler Gratton got the Nittany Lions’ goals at Munn Ice Arena, and Spartan goaltender John Lethemon put together a spectacular 40-save effort to backstop his squad to a win. Patrick Khodorenko scored a hat trick for Michigan State to power his team’s offense.
Peyton Jones registered 29 saves in the defeat.
How It Happened
Michigan State started Friday’s game very well, and it took the Spartans 18:23 to finally beat Peyton Jones. Patrick Khodorenko blasted a one-timer beyond Jones, who stopped the Spartans’ first 14 attempts of the game, to open the scoring and give Penn State a 1-0 deficit to work with.
Guy Gadowsky’s side entered the intermission down a goal and trailing 15-6 in shots on goal. The first 10-or-so minutes of the evening were tense and evenly matched, but Michigan State established control of the contest as the period progressed.
Penn State kicked off the second period with a strong push — including a Nate Sucese breakaway after a turnover. John Lethemon made a beauty of a glove save after Sucese deked to the backhand, and the play was Lethemon’s first major involvement in the contest. The team recorded the first 13 shots on goal of the second period, but Lethemon was equal to them all.
Despite getting put under immense pressure, Michigan State extended its lead to 2-0 thanks to Khodorenko’s second of the night. The Spartans forced a turnover and sprung the center free on a breakaway, which was their first shot on goal in the second period. The goal was scored 13:17 into the middle frame.
Cole Hults *finally* broke Lethemon’s resistance with 3:19 to play in the second period. The Los Angeles Kings’ prospect put an absolute rocket of a wrister into the top corner after some nice possession by Penn State. Hults’ fifth of the year was assisted by Connor McMenamin and cut Michigan State’s lead to 2-1.
Despite out-shooting the Spartans 16-2, Penn State entered the second intermission trailing by a goal. The third period got off to a much more tense, even start with both teams exchanging chances as the Nittany Lions pushed to tie the game.
However, Michigan State got the crucial next goal with 12:20 to play in the third period. Cole Krygier toe-dragged James Gobetz and beat Jones at his near post to extend the Spartan lead to 3-1. The defenseman’s tally was the end product of lots of sustained possession by his team.
Khodorenko got his third goal of the game with a power play tally midway through the third period. Patrick’s hat trick essentially killed off the game by giving Michigan State a 4-1 lead with 7:08 to play.
Paul DeNaples slipped a score past Lethemon late, but it was waved off due to goalie interference. Tyler Gratton buried a nifty feed from Alex Limoges on a 2-on-1 rush with 21.6 seconds to play in the third, but that served as nothing more than a consolation goal in the defeat.
- Guy Gadowsky’s team did not start this game well at all, but you have to give the team credit for its second-period pushback. The Nittany Lions got the first 13 shots on net in the middle frame, so Patrick Khodorenko’s breakaway goal felt like a backbreaker at the time. However, Cole Hults’ late strike gave the Nittany Lions a much more positive outlook entering the final 20 minutes.
- Penn State probably wishes that John Lethemon would just go away. Michigan State’s netminder was fantastic on Friday — particularly in the second period — and he was a huge reason for his team’s success. This is the second time this season that Lethemon shut down the potent Nittany Lion offense this year after his 48-save shutout at Pegula Ice Arena on November 8.
- With Saturday’s loss, Michigan State overtook the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten standings on 28 points. If it’s any consolation for Penn State fans, the team is still No. 3 in the conference’s standings ahead of Notre Dame, which is taking on Wisconsin this weekend.
The Nittany Lions and Spartans will close out their weekend set with another game at 6 p.m. Saturday. That game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
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