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Penn State Men’s Hockey Takes Series Opener Over Michigan State 4-2

Penn State (10-6-0, 2-5-0 Big Ten) defeated Michigan State (8-6-1, 2-4-0 Big Ten) in the first of a two-game series in Pegula Ice Arena by a score of 4-2.

The Nittany Lions used a strong penalty kill and timely defense to pick up their second conference win of the season.

Friday marked the first game in Pegula Ice Arena for the Nittany Lions in almost a month. The Spartans offered Penn State a chance to improve its conference record, as the Nittany Lions entered Friday night’s game after dropping five of their last six Big Ten matchups.

How It Happened

Goaltender Oskar Autio was given the start for Penn State, as the Nittany Lions looked to get back in the win column in Big Ten play. Senior goaltender Drew DeRidder started in net for the Spartans.

The Nittany Lions were gifted an early power play chance, as Michigan State was given a minor penalty for tripping as well as a ten-minute misconduct penalty. Despite a big opportunity to grab an early lead and momentum, Penn State’s power play struggled to enter the zone and get set up, leading to an easy penalty kill for Michigan State, leaving the game scoreless with plenty of time to play in the first period.

Michigan State’s first real scoring chance of the game came just over six minutes into the first period when forwards Nicolas Muller and Mitchell Mattson both had grade-A scoring chances from in front of the net that were set aside by a series of phenomenal saves by Penn State goaltender Oskar Autio.

After a brief stoppage of play due to an on-ice maintenance issue in the crease of the Spartans goal, the game entered the second half of the first period with Michigan State leading shots 8-4. Despite the lack of scoring chances, the Nittany Lions were the first team to find the back of the net, as sophomore forward Christian Sarlo scored his fourth goal of the season to give Penn State a 1-0 lead. The goal was assisted by Xander Lamppa and captain Paul DeNaples.

With just under eight minutes remaining in the opening period, both Penn State and Michigan State were called for unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalties, resulting in a brief stretch of 4-on-4 hockey. Nothing came about for either team, as the game returned to even strength for the final five-plus minutes of the period.

Looking to improve on their performance on their first power play opportunity, the Nittany Lions were sent to the power play after Spartans forward Mitchell Lewandowski was given two minutes for tripping.

The game entered the first intermission with Penn State leading 1-0 on the scoreboard and 13-10 in shots. Penn State would begin the second period with 13 seconds of power play time.

With little time remaining on the penalty kill, the Spartans killed the Nittany Lions man advantage as the game returned to even-strength hockey early on in the second.

Following a great scoring chance for Penn State on one end, Michigan State was sent to the power play for the first time in the game as junior defenseman Kenny Johnson was given two minutes for hooking. With just 36 seconds remaining on the initial Spartans power play, the Nittany Lions were whistled for another penalty, this time for tripping, leading to a brief 5-on-3 Michigan State power play. Despite the extended power play opportunity, it was the Nittany Lions who had the best scoring chance when junior forward Tyler Gratton was stopped by DeRidder on a breakaway.

After an extended stretch of back and forth even-strength hockey, the best scoring chance of the period for either team came with just over seven minutes remaining in the period when a scrum in front of the Penn State net resulted in a series of impressive saves by Autio and the Nittany Lion defense. It was just the third shot of the period by the Spartans thanks to Penn State’s solid play in front of its net-minder.

Penn State’s best scoring chance of the period came with just over five minutes remaining when Christian Sarlo and Connor McMenamin got loose on an odd-man rush leading to a 2-on-0. Great recovery defense by the Spartans prevented a goal, keeping the Nittany Lion lead at one.

Despite not scoring on the 2-on-0, the Nittany Lions didn’t take their foot off the gas in the offensive zone and as a result, freshman forward Ryan Kirwan scored his fifth goal of the season to give Penn State a 2-0 lead. The goal was assisted by defenseman Clayton Phillips and forward Ben Copeland.

A charging penalty by the Spartans led to a scuffle that resulted in the game’s second stretch of 4-on-4 hockey that later resulted in the Spartan’s first goal of the game, cutting the Penn State lead in half. The goal was scored by senior defenseman Cole Krygier and assisted by sophomore forwards Jeremy Davidson and Kristof Papp.

Michigan State’s late goal sent the game to the second intermission with Penn State now leading 2-1. Shots were in favor of the Nittany Lions 27-20 entering the final period.

With all the momentum entering the third period following their goal late in the second period, it didn’t take long for the Spartans to find the back of the net and tie the game at two. Christian Krygier, twin brother of first Spartans goal scorer Cole Krygier, split two Nittany Lion defenders for his first goal of the season. Seniors Mitchell Lewandowski and Dennis Cesana were credited with the assists.

Penn State was gifted a big opportunity to retake the lead when the Spartans were sent to the box for two minutes for interference. In the final seconds of the power play, Penn State scored to go back up by one, making it a 3-2 game. Junior forward Connor MacEachern scored his ninth of the season on a shot from the near slot, sneaking it through the legs of DeRidder. Jimmy Dowd Jr. and Ben Schoen were credited with the assists.

The Nittany Lions returned to the penalty kill as sophomore forward Chase McLane was called for tripping. Much like it had been all night, Penn State’s penalty kill was strong once again, keeping the Spartans off the scoreboard on the power play.

Despite a strong push by the Spartans down the stretch, the Nittany Lions were able to hold on, beating Michigan State 4-2 while outshooting them 38-32.

Takeaways

  • Entering the game, Penn State’s discipline issues and struggling penalty kill was something to watch out for and while the bad penalties continued to plague the Nittany Lions, the penalty kill looked much improved. Penn State committed five penalties in the game and was able to kill off all five of them.
  • Goaltender Oskar Autio was solid from start to finish once again for the Nittany Lions as the senior goaltender stopped 30 of the 32 shots that were thrown his way including a few highlight reel saves. Autio was locked in all night to earn his seventh win of the season.
  • One of the bigger reasons behind Autio’s success tonight was the play by the defense in front of him. The Nittany Lions defense was the biggest reason behind their win as they did a great job all night of creating turnovers and limiting second chance opportunities.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions will continue their two-game series against Michigan State on Saturday, December 4 in Pegula Ice Arena. The game will begin at 5 p.m., and the game can be streamed on BTN+.

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About the Author

Devon Craley

Devon is a junior studying sports journalism. He has the genuine misfortune of being a Philadelphia sports fan...IYKYK. Send your hot takes and preferably your freezing cold takes on Twitter to @devon3134. Devon is also your friendly, neighborhood State College movie nerd.

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