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For the first 50 minutes of Penn State’s 4-2 win over Michigan State, there wasn’t much to it. The Nittany Lions scored early in the first and owned the rest of that period. The Spartans scored 18 seconds into the second and owned the rest of that one. The first 10 minutes of the third were back-and-forth to the point of being routine.

That didn’t last.

At 11:32, the Spartans pulled ahead on Rhett Holland’s third goal of the season, the end result of a near-heroic second assist by Thomas Ebbing on the far side of the left circle. On his back, Ebbing passed to Taro Hirose, who fed Holland, who one-timed it past Penn State goaltender Peyton Jones. The Spartans led 2-1.

But that didn’t last either.

Just 13 seconds later, Chase Berger responded with a rocket from the top of the slot to beat Michigan State goaltender John Lethemon at 11:45. It was a 2-2 game.

And that’s when things got really interesting.

“I don’t think it was necessarily how we wanted to play the game, I don’t necessarily think it was how they wanted to play the game,” said Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky. “It was just one of those games where there didn’t seem to be a lot of flow either way. But then at the end of the game, there was a hockey game.”

At 12:08 — just 23 seconds after the Nittany Lions tied the game — Michigan State’s Logan Lambdin went to the penalty box for goaltender interference, giving the Nittany Lions a power play with momentum on their side.

At 13:01 though, Penn State’s Andrew Sturtz earned two minutes for boarding, so it was four-on-four hockey … until it wasn’t, because Holland was called for elbowing at 13:36, giving the Nittany Lions a four-on-three power play.

It was at 15:27, though, when the Nittany Lions were at full strength and the Spartans down a single player that Dylan Richard scored a scruffy, scrambling goal with half a dozen guys in or near the crease, the goal that put Penn State ahead for good.

The Spartans had two more power-play opportunities in the last five minutes of regulation, including for the last 1:40 of the game with Berger in the box for elbowing. Michigan State pulled Lethemon for an extra two attackers, but David Goodwin hit the empty net with 30 seconds to go.

And that really was that.

“I thought we started well and came out in the second period, give Michigan State credit [because] they just took over the game and we just weren’t ourselves and we were frustrated that nothing was working,” said Gadowsky. “But I give our guys credit. We went down two to one and a huge response from Chase Berger and that line.  That was the most important play of the game.”

Michigan State coach Tom Anastos said that it came down to single moments and special teams for the Spartans.

“I thought, obviously, good start in the second period, a quick goal and I thought we played a better overall period and in most cases a better overall game from that point on, but we didn’t key moments,” said Anastos. “We pulled ahead, we gave up a goal right away, which is not a good thing, and our power play was ineffective.  Theirs gets a key goal for them. Special teams goes their way and that’s the difference in the game.”

With the win, the fourth-place Nittany Lions (19-8-2, 8-6-1-0 Big Ten) keep pace with the teams ahead of them in the Big Ten standings, just a point behind Ohio State and eight behind both Minnesota and Wisconsin, tied for first.

The Spartans (6-20-3, 2-11-2-0 Big Ten) host Penn State again Saturday night in Munn Ice Arena. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m.

Big Ten roudup

No. 12 Ohio State 4, Michigan 2
Two period-ending power-play goals propelled Ohio State past Michigan, 4-2, in Columbus, Ohio. Down a goal after Evan Allen’s second of the season at 12:12 in the first, Buckeyes forward David Gust scored his 13th of the year — his seventh on the power play –  with a single second remaining in the period, tying it 1-1. Leading 3-2 with seven seconds left in the second period, Nick Schilkey notched his 24th goal of the season — his 14th on the power play — to end the scoring.

Ohio State’s Kevin Miller scored two in the game and Dakota Joshua had the primary assist on three of Ohio State’s goals. Allen had both goals for the Wolverines.

Michigan (9-17-3, 2-11-2-2 Big Ten) and Ohio State (17-8-6, 8-6-1-1 Big Ten) meet again at 5:05 p.m. Saturday in the Schottenstein Center.

No. 19 Wisconsin 3, at No. 4 Minnesota 2
Wisconsin scored three second-period goals — one at even strength, one short-handed, one on a power play — to upset Minnesota, 3-2, and move the Badgers into a tie with the Golden Gophers for first place in the Big Ten standings. Vinni Lettieri had both goals for the Gophers, including his 16th of the season just 28 seconds into the game to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead after the first.

Trent Frederic scored at 3:42 in the second to tie the game, his 15th of the season. At 7:22, Aidan Cavallini scored short-handed to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead, and at 19:04, Ryan Wagner had the game-winning goal on a power play. Lettieri’s second goal of the game at 11:52 in the third brought the final score to 3-2.

Wisconsin goaltender Jack Berry made 36 saves in the win as the Golden Gophers outshot the Badgers, 38-18.

Wisconsin (18-10-1, 11-4-0-0 Big Ten) and Minnesota (20-9-2, 11-4-0-0 Big Ten) play at 7:00 p.m. Saturday night in Mariucci Arena.