Penn State Hockey Vows To Avenge Michigan State, Goaltender John Lethemon’s Shutout Masterclass
Penn State hockey will encounter an old foe in Michigan State goalkeeper John Lethemon when it travels to East Lansing for a two-game set this weekend.
Lethemon is the brick wall to the Nittany Lions’ accelerating car. The Spartans’ first-choice netminder stopped Penn State in its tracks during a 2-0 victory at Pegula Ice Arena on November 8. Guy Gadowsky’s team took 48 shots on Lethemon’s net, but the Lethemon stopped all of them in a disheartening defeat for Penn State.
Other than their finishing, the Nittany Lions played a near-perfect game against the Spartans that night. They didn’t take a single penalty throughout the contest, and Michigan State only mustered 22 shots on Peyton Jones’ cage all evening thanks to a strong defensive effort, aside from two lapses.
Gadowsky got almost everything he could’ve possibly asked of his team — except for goals — and he was understandably perplexed in his postgame press conference following the defeat. The head coach was still dumbfounded by the result while reflecting on it more than two months later.
“It was a while ago now, but we do remember that series well,” Gadowsky recalled on Tuesday. “The game we lost 2-0 still might be our best overall performance — except the puck didn’t go in the net. You talk about trying to be consistent offensively and defensively, and our chances and shots were really good.”
Penn State got the better of Lethemon and the Spartans in the second game of the series by winning 6-4 back at Pegula. Nikita Pavlychev finally broke Lethemon’s resistance a little more than 10 minutes into the contest, and the goalkeeper fell back down to earth with just 25 saves on 30 shots in his team’s loss. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 5-1 lead before Michigan State stormed back with three unanswered goals, but Denis Smirnov’s empty-netter iced the team’s bounce-back win.
Despite the more recent 6-4 win, Penn State’s head coach conceded that losing 2-0 thanks to Lethemon’s unreal display of shot-stopping may linger in the back of his team’s mind a bit.
“Maybe there’s optimism because we [played that well in the series], and they’re now better than anticipated,” Gadowsky said. “That’s in the back of your mind, but you still have to face every game. I don’t care if they’re 60th in the PairWise or No. 1 — you’ve got to play your best game. It’s human nature to think that way, but we want to take the lessons we learned from last weekend and apply them here.”
Star center Evan Barratt scored a goal against Michigan State in that 6-4 win, but he’s definitely out for more revenge — especially after Penn State’s winless series against Michigan went last weekend.
As the Nittany Lions enter their last 10 contests of the year, Barratt knows that every game has the importance of postseason play from here on out. The fiery junior wants his team to play angrily this weekend in order to secure all six points in the Big Ten standings that’ll be up for grabs at Munn Ice Arena.
“The [48-save] shutout was insane. We definitely owe [Lethemon] two good games, and we’re just going to try and get to the net and get him off his game,” Barratt said. “It’s going to be a long weekend, for sure. Both teams really need these points, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
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With THON coming up this weekend, if this is your first time in the stands FTK, you may have a question or two.
“You have to take in every little moment, because 46 hours may seem like a long time, but it goes by so fast.”
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