The Michigan State Hockey team (6-21-3) was unable to send their seniors out with a victory as they closed their home portion of the regular season with a 4-1 loss to #11 Penn State Nittany Lions (20-8-2).
“You hate to have the seniors play their last game and not have success.” stated MSU head coach Tom Anastos after the game speaking of the senior class.
The Nittany Lions enforced their will early and often against the Spartans in the first 20 minutes by putting up three first period goals. Penn State struck first with a goal by forward Nate Sucese who received a pass right next to the net and tipped the puck passed MSU goalie Ed Minney. Sucese would not be done in the period. Penn State’s second goal came on the power play when team points leader, Denis Smirnov fired a wrist shot passed Minney from the left point in the MSU zone. Sucese found the net for the second time in the period when receiving a pass on a two on one break and slipping a shot passed Minney into the wide open net.
Though Penn State led 3-0 at the end of the first period, both them and the Spartans played a very sloppy period with a combined seven penalties, four for MSU and three for PSU, in the period.
The Spartans managed just four shots on goal in the first 20 minutes.
Neither team could find the back of the net in the second period as Penn State kept their 3-0 lead heading into the final 20 minutes. In the middle period MSU was able to double their shot total from the first 20 minutes by increasing their game total to 12 compared to the Nittany Lions’s 24 shots on net.
Michigan State finally got on the board with nine minutes remaining in the game when senior Villiam Haag capped off his home career with a bang by scoring his sixth goal of the season to chip into PSU’s lead at 3-1. With the goal MSU avoided being shut out at home since December of 2015 against Wisconsin.
Penn State was able to get back that goal and increase their lead back to three just 2 minutes later when Andrew Sturtz scored his 19th goal of the season to put the Nittany Lions back up 4-1.
Ed Minney, in between the pipes for MSU, saved 31 of Penn State’s 35 shots on net for a 88% save percentage.
Mental mistakes plagued the Spartans throughout the whole game Saturday night. Whether it was the eleven penalties, two of them for too many players on the ice, Minney not being able to handle the puck behind the net, Missing the net on wide open shots from the slot, or not being able to hold onto passes in odd man rushes, the Spartans looked the sloppiest they had since the first month of the season.
” We played a not very smart game. Our execution was poor, we made poor decisions all over the ice. Playing against good teams you can’t cause your own problems.” Anastos stated after the game.
After the game Michigan State celebrated the 2017 senior class for their completion of four or five years playing in front of the Spartan faithful. The eight players that were honored included: Villiam Haag, Rhett Holland, Justin Selep, JT Stenglein, Connor Wood, assistant captain Thomas Ebbing, and team captain Joe Cox.
Talking about his seniors after the game Anastos stated, ” They are a really good group of people who brought it everyday. It was a pleasure to spend time with them. We will miss them.”
With the loss to Penn State, the Nittany Lions complete the season 4-0 sweep over Michigan State. The loss also completed MSU’s eighth time being swept in a weekend series during the season.
The weekend sweep at the hands of the Nittany Lions capped off MSU’s home losing streak at 12 games.
The Spartans will finish off their regular season schedule with a weekend series at Ohio State on March 3 and 4 and then finishing at Minnesota on March 10 and 11 before heading to Joe Louis Arena for the final time for the Big Ten Conference tournament.