EAST LANSING, Mich. - “A pretty good college hockey game.” Quite the understatement from head coach Danton Cole, describing the second game of the weekend between No. 19 Michigan State and No. 9 Penn State. The Spartans were unable to complete the series sweep, falling 2-1 as Penn State’s Connor McMenamin scored 0:39 into overtime.
After winning 4-2 and moving into first in the Big Ten, the Spartans entered game two looking for a sweep and a larger gap between the top two teams in the standings. The Nittany Lions, hoping to salvage the weekend, came firing out of the gate. Despite eventually losing, Cole noted that the atmosphere was “outstanding, the guys fed off that” and that the effort was “one of the better games the squad has played all year.”
Unlike last night’s contest, in which the first and second periods were dominated by either side shots-wise (16-5 MSU in the first, 17-2 PSU in the second), the chances came even and often throughout the action packed first two frames. Despite plenty of quality scoring chances on both ends, neither squad could find the back of the net until Penn State forward Nate Sucese broke the deadlock after 39 minutes of scoreless hockey. With a bullet from inside the left circle in the final minute of period two, Sucese put the Nittany Lions up 1-0, the 60th goal of his career.
The lead wouldn’t last long, as Michigan State captain Tommy Apap tipped a loose puck into the neutral zone and took it to the net, converting on a short-handed breakaway. The blocker side finish leveled the score at 1-1 just 0:17 into the third period. “It was a lucky bounce” said Apap, who noticed that Patrick Khodorenko “had a couple on the blocker side last night so I decided to shoot it there.” The goal was Apap’s sixth of the season, doubling his total from last year.
APAP with the SHORTY!— MSU_Hockey (@MSU_Hockey) January 26, 2020
Apap ties the game at 1-1, 23 seconds into the 3rd period! It's a tie game in East Lansing! pic.twitter.com/7iaQ1EpVGV
Midway through the third, the Nittany Lions had a breakaway of their own. A diving poke-check effort from John Lethemon denied the chance and kept the score tied. With one minute remaining in the third period, Lethemon took a hard collision in the crease, after being down on the ice for some time he remained in the game. The 1-1 score would hold to the end of the third.
Penn State’s Connor McMenamin scored the winner in the first minute of overtime.
“This one stings for sure... but we’re very happy with our game tonight. The effort was great... the guys stuck with it... we have to take the positives and learn from every game” noted the Spartan’s lone goalscorer Apap. “We’re not lacking any confidence, we know we’re a good team” added senior captain Sam Saliba. Michigan State and Penn State have now split their last six series’ dating back to November of 2017.
The Spartans move to 13-12-1 overall and 9-6-1 in the Big Ten. They are now tied for first in the conference with Penn State, as Minnesota took down Ohio State 4-1 in their second meeting of the weekend. “There’s a good vibe around this team and there should be” said Coach Cole, looking forward to a long break. Michigan State will face Minnesota in Minneapolis on Friday, Feb. 7 and Saturday, Feb. 8. Coach Cole’s closing words: “Sometimes it just comes down to a bounce.”
IN THE BIG TEN:
Notre Dame 5-2 Wisconsin
The Fighting Irish stormed back after falling 6-4 to the Badgers in game one. Five different players got on the scoresheet in the 5-2 win. The victory gives them 23 points, good for fourth in the Big Ten.
Minnesota 4-1 Ohio State
The Golden Gophers defeated the Buckeyes 4-1, completing the weekend sweep and now have 22 points, but still remain in fifth. The loss keeps the Buckeyes from reclaiming first place, which is now split between Michigan State and Penn State.
U.S. NTDP 4-1 Michigan
The Michigan Wolverines lost a midseason non-record game 4-1 against the National Team Development Program. Goaltenders Hayden Lavigne and Strauss Mann split the minutes 40:00 to 20:00. The Wolverines are in sixth in the Big Ten