EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan Wolverines made a statement, earning a dominant road win and three crucial points in the Big Ten standings. The Wolverines offense stays hot, scoring five or more goals in the third straight game and capturing their third straight victory.
The first period opened with the even aggressive and physical play expected in hockey’s most-played rivalry. The ice soon tilted as scoring chances came much more frequently for the visiting Wolverines than the host Spartans.
Senior forward Patrick Khodorenko took a slashing penalty under six minutes into the first period. Michigan’s Jake Slaker converted a one-timer on the resulting power-play 6:07 into the period. The Wolverines never looked back, scoring their second just two minutes later to double the lead. The 2-0 score, with the go-ahead tally scored by Wolverine defenseman Luke Martin, held to the end of the first frame.
Any life the Spartans had headed into the break was quickly killed, as the Wolverine’s Jacob Hayhurst converted on a breakaway just 0:19 into the second. Michigan’s Jack Summers added his name to the scoresheet 12:37 into the second period making it 4-0.
Sam Saliba cut the deficit by one, redirecting a Dennis Cesana shot past Michigan goaltender Strauss Mann for a power-play tally 5:11 into the third. Jake Slaker iced the contest with his second goal of the night. The 5-1 score held through the final buzzer.
SALIBA ON THE POWER PLAY!— MSU_Hockey (@MSU_Hockey) February 15, 2020
Sam Saliba tips one in front to put the Spartans on the board with 15 minutes remaining in the third period. pic.twitter.com/918sUVxMgm
Michigan State’s senior goaltender John Lethemon struggled in his statistically-worst game of the season, saving 33 of 38 shots and letting in five goals. The Spartans’ penalty-kill, which has been a strength of their game the latter half of this season, faltered early and gave the Wolverines the jump. Five minor penalties only resulted in one Wolverine goal but kept the Spartans on their heels and playing from behind. Slaker’s man-advantage tally in the first period was the first power-play goal Michigan State has conceded since Jan. 10th against Minnesota.
The Spartans fall to 10-8-1 in the Big Ten with 31 points and are leapfrogged by Minnesota, who jump into a tie for first in the conference with Penn State at 33 points. The Wolverines have launched themselves back into contention with the three points and now sit in fifth place with 30 points, only three out of first place.
As the regular season nears close and the playoff race heats up, opportunities to improve in the PairWise become more scarce. A 5-1 loss at home damages the Spartans’ resume significantly, as they will fall from their current 23rd ranking after the blowout loss. Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan all sit higher in the PairWise than the Spartans, at 11th, 14th, and 20th, respectively. To earn a bid into the NCAA tournament, winning the Big Ten tournament may be Michigan State’s only road.
Game two puck drop is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, January 17 at Little Caesars Arena.
MICH power-play goal at 6:07: Jake Slaker (11). Assisted by Nick Blankenburg and Will Lockwood.
MICH goal at 8:30: Luke Martin (1). Assisted by Nick Pastujov and Cam York
MICH goal at 00:19: Jacob Hayhurst (6). Assisted by Luke Martin and Strauss Mann.
MICH goal at 12:37: Jack Summers (4). Assisted by Keaton Pehrson and Dakota Raabe.
MSU power-play goal at 5:11: Sam Saliba (10). Assisted by Dennis Cesana and Jerad Rosburg.
MICH goal at 12:01: Jake Slaker (12). Assisted by Luke Morgan and Nick Granowicz.
IN THE BIG TEN:
Wisconsin 4-3 Penn State
Despite sitting in dead last in the Big Ten, the Badgers played their part in influencing the top of the standings. Badger forward Dylan Holloway scored the late dagger, breaking a 3-3 tie with one minute remaining in the third to steal the victory on home ice. The loss holds Penn State at 33 points and tied for first in the conference with the majority of teams holding two games in hand on the Nittany Lions
Minnesota (SOW) 3-3 Notre Dame
The Gophers defeated the Irish in a shootout to pick up two points. Minnesota led 2-0 midway through the first, but Notre Dame would come back to lead 3-2 at the end of the second. Minnesota’s Sammy Walker tied it midway through the third forcing 5-on-5 and 3-on-3 overtime. The game was ultimately settled in a shootout, with Minnesota victorious