Big Ten: Michigan State makes itself at home in 4-1 victory over Michigan

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Michigan State scored three unassisted goals – two shorthanded – en route to a 4-1 win over Michigan, taking its second game from the Wolverines in Yost Ice Arena this season, a feat the Spartans hadn’t accomplished since the 1989-90 season.

“I thought we played a real solid game all night long,” said Michigan State coach Tom Anastos.  “I like the way we moved the puck around.  I liked our penalty kill, other than giving up that goal at the end.

“The depth in our lines was good tonight.  We got contributions up and down the lineup up front and on defense.  It was nice to see some offense and pucks go in for our defensemen … so that was a positive.  So were the shorthanded goals.

“It was a positive night for Michigan State.”

In his first career win, freshman John Lethemon stopped 23 of 24 shots he faced, allowing that single goal with 10 seconds left in regulation, on the power play and with Michigan’s Zach Nagelvoort pulled for a two-man advantage.

“I thought I played pretty solid all night,” said Lethemon.  “I wasn’t tested too much early and the guys did a great job in front of me and I just made the saves I was supposed to make.”

“I thought he looked very confident in net,” said Anastos of Lethemon, who replaced starting goaltender Ed Minney after the first period of Friday’s 4-4 tie against Michigan in Joe Louis Arena.  “I thought he came in in a relief role onto a big stage last night and performed well, and this is a tough building to play in and I thought he was very poised.  That should be a great confidence boost for him.”

The Spartans scored three in the second period, starting with Rhett Holland’s goal at 7:18, a shot from between the right circle and the boards that found its way through traffic to beat a screened Jack LaFontaine.  LaFontaine started the game but came out midway through the second with a bruised hip after a collision with the cage.

At 16:28, Zach Osburn made it 2-0 on the first unassisted goal of the night, stealing the puck away from a Michigan defender when the Wolverines were trying to play the puck out of the zone.  At 19:10 and shorthanded, Taro Hirose had a highlight-reel shorthanded breakaway, beating Nagelvoort five-hole to make it 3-0 after two.

Mason Appleton’s 10th goal of the season was another shorthanded breakaway 55 seconds into the third.

“Obviously, we’re really disappointed in that game and the way we played it from start to finish,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson.

In their past three contests, the Wolverines scored 14 goals.  Michigan scored five goals in each game of a split against Ohio State Feb. 3-4 and four in Friday’s 4-4 tie in JLA.

Berenson said that a game comes down to “preparation and compete” level. “We didn’t compete hard enough.  Whether last night’s game influenced tonight’s game in any way, I don’t know, but I thought we had to be better tonight and we weren’t even close to being better.  We took a step backwards.”

Next up for the Spartans (6-17-3, 2-8-2-0 Big Ten) is a home series against Ohio State, Feb. 17-18.  The Wolverines (9-14-3, 2-8-2-2 Big Ten) travel to Wisconsin Feb. 17-18.

Big Ten roundup

No. 5 Minnesota 6, No. 13 Ohio State 5

The Golden Gophers scored all six of their goals on the power play in a back-and-forth, 6-5 road win over Ohio State, giving Minnesota a split for the weekend and sole possession of first place in the Big Ten standings.  The Buckeyes led 3-0 when the Gophers first found the net at 6:18 in the second, the first of Vinni Lettieri’s two goals.  With the score tied 4-4 after two periods, Dakota Joshua put the Buckeyes ahead at 8:24 in the third, but Lettieri’s goal at 12:34 tied the game and Jake Bischoff scored the winner exactly three minutes later. The Gophers went 6-for-10 on the power play. Minnesota goaltender Eric Schierhorn stopped 17 as the Gophers outshot the Buckeyes 37-22.

No. 10 Penn State 5, No. 17 Wisconsin 2

Denis Smirnov had two goals and two assists as Penn State completed a road sweep of Wisconsin.  Smirnov’s first goal at 10:53 in the second period, his 13th of the season, held up to be the winner.  Smirnov’s second goal at 2:53 in the third was the first of two unassisted goals the Nittany Lions scored in the final period. Payton Jones made 27 saves, and Penn State outshot Wisconsin 44-29. The six-point weekend gives the Nittany Lions 22 points and shortens the gap between Penn State and Wisconsin. The Badgers are in second place with 24 points while Minnesota tops the Big Ten with 27.

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