Spartans Settle for Split With No. 17 Penn State

Jeff Barnes
Michigan State hockey (PHOTO:  MSU SID)
Michigan State hockey (PHOTO: MSU SID)

EAST LANSING – A night after topping No. 17 Penn State, 5-3, the Michigan State hockey team fell to the Nittany Lions by the same score on Saturday at Munn Ice Arena. Trailing 4-2 in the third period, the Spartans made it a one-goal game with 5:55 to go, but couldn't get the tying goal in what was the regular season home finale.

The Spartans honored seniors Cody Milan, Zach Osburnand Brennan Sanford prior to the game and two of the three picked up points. Milan scored a power-play goal to even the game in the second period, while Sanford picked up an assist on the Spartans' first goal.

"Sometimes senior night is a hard night to play – it can be too emotional or you don't have energy because of that," MSU head coach Danton Cole said. "I thought all three guys worked their tails off. They battled and the rest of the team battled really hard. It was one of those games where I felt we just ran out of time. I thought the guys played hard right to the end, even pulling our goalie shorthanded to give ourselves a chance and we had a couple rips at it and just couldn't get it."

Junior Taro Hirose picked up two assists to give him an NCAA-leading 50 points on the season; he's the first Spartan since John-Michael Liles in 2002-03 to hit the 50-point mark.

Penn State never trailed and capitalized on an odd-man rush to strike first as 4:11 into the opening period Brandon Biro's shot from the right circle got past goaltender John Lethemon.

The Spartans tied the game just past the midway point of the opening period as Adam Goodsir got his second goal in as many games. Brody Stevens dumped the puck into the left corner in the PSU zone where it was mishandled by a Nittany Lion defenseman, allowing Sanford to gain control. Sanford immediately found a streaking Goodsir in the slot, who took the pass and rifled the puck past goaltender Peyton Jones.

Penn State reclaimed the lead, 2-1, with a power-play goal at the 13:03 mark of the first when Ludvig Larsson knocked a rebound into the net.

Michigan State tied it up on the power play just over five minutes into the second period courtesy of Milan. Hirose gathered control of the puck behind the Penn State net and shoved it to Patrick Khodorenko, who was just off the right post. Khodorenko slid the puck across the ice to Milan who snapped it up past Jones to even the score, 2-2.

The Nittany Lions took back the lead at the 8:05 mark as after a scramble in front, Paul DeNaples put a shot past Lethemon from near the boards on the left side.

More pressure in the MSU zone allowed Penn State to make it 4-2 with 6:33 to go in the second period. Defenseman Kris Myllari snuck down from the point, took a pass from Alex Limoges and scored on a snap shot.

The Spartans had a good amount of pressure in the third period and made it a one-goal game with a power-play goal with just under six minutes to play. Patrick Khodorenko and Hirose got the puck back to Jerad Rosburg at the point, who wristed the puck through traffic and past Jones to make it 4-3.

The assist was Khodorenko's second of the game, which upped his season point total to 36.

A penalty to the Spartans with 2:26 to go further challenged the comeback effort. MSU pulled Lethemon while shorthanded and got several good looks, but Jones stopped every attempt and Nate Sucese sealed the PSU win with 23 seconds to play with an empty-net goal.

The Spartans went 2-for-3 on the power play, while PSU was 1-for-3.

The Spartans are off next weekend before playing their final series of the regular season, March 1-2 at No. 2 Ohio State.

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