EAST LANSING, Mich. — The theme for Michigan State’s 5-3 win over Penn State tonight? Toughness.
After exchanging five goals within a 10-minute span in the middle of the second period, the Spartans and Nittany Lions were tied 3-3 heading into the final 20 minutes of their first-ever meeting.
But the Spartans took advantage of a major penalty late in the third to pull into the lead and capped the game with an empty-net goal – and all without the benefit of two of their three top scorers.
“We talked about toughness,” said Michigan State coach Tom Anastos. “There were a number of times when guys came to the bench – they took a shot, or they took a hit or whatever – a combination of me telling me that they’re strong and they’re okay and them mentally just toughing it out. I give the players a lot of credit for overcoming those bumps. That’s part of the game. In the end, when you get a good result, it feels good even though it feels bad.”
It was a tough, bruising game, with end-to-end physical play and no mercy for either goaltender. MSU’s Will Yankeff and PSU’s Matthew Skoff each made 27 saves as the Spartans outshot the Nittany Lions 32-30.
There were some pretty goals, too, like freshman Michael Ferrantino’s second career goal at 12:42 in the first to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead after one. Ferrantino snaked the puck out of the right corner, threaded a couple of skaters en route to the crease, switched from forehand to back and shot clean past Skoff.
In the goal frenzy of the second period – five scored between 6:55 and 16:12 – twice the Spartans connected on passes that went at least half the length of the ice to score a goal and twice the Nittany Lions scored on a two-man rush with one-time shots that found nothing but net. Particularly sweet was sophomore Tommy Olczyk’s shorthanded goal at 8:25, a marker that first put the Nittany Lions on the scoreboard and made it a 2-1 game, a beautifully timed wrist shot from the left circle on which Yanakeff had no chance.
For his part, Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky was pleased with his team’s effort, especially after the Nittany Lions settled down at the start of the second period.
“I think the first period, we were very excited to be in Michigan at Munn Ice Arena at Michigan State and watched a lot,” said Gadowsky. “I think we were off a little bit and wanted to see what was going on, but once we realized we deserved to be on the ice, we played pretty well.”
It was the five-minute major for checking from behind and game misconduct to PSU freshman defenseman Connor Varley at 12:24 in the third that put a comeback out of reach for the Nittany Lions. Tanner Sorenson’s game-winning goal, his second tally of the night, came at 14:17 and the Spartans had some good looks for the rest of the man advantage.
“We had a chance to win, but took a five-minute [penalty] at the end and that was the ball game,” said Gadowsky. “Up until then, I can’t be too disappointed with our effort.”
The Spartans netted five goals for just the second time this season and they did so without two of the three players who make up their first line, sophomores Matt Berry and Brent Darnell. Berry received a game disqualification in an exhibition match against the U.S. Under-18 team Tuesday (Jan. 22) and served his suspension tonight and Darnell sustained an upper-body injury in the same game.
“Tough, tough, tough lineup tonight,” said Anastos. “It’s one of the reasons you do switch your lines up and you play guys in different positions and all those sorts of things because there are times and games where that happens.”