Spartans fall to No. 8 Buckeyes in winter break matchup

EAST LANSING, MI — On a cold Friday night the eighth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes chilled Michigan State 4-1 at Munn Ice Arena. Despite a home ice advantage and an impressive crowd of 5,744 it was not enough to overcome the skilled Buckeyes.

“I think, you know, the lessons keep coming and we’ll keep trying to figure things out,” said coach Danton Cole.

Things started off poorly right at the very beginning for the Spartans. Thirty-three seconds into the game Ohio State took a 1-0 lead off of the stick of Sasha Larocque. Just over five minutes later, the Buckeyes extended their lead to 2-0 when Kevin Miller capitalised on Ohio State’s first power play of the game.

Michigan State’s bad fortunes continued in the second period where they gave up two more goals in the first 32 seconds. The first came 15 seconds into the second, while on a carry-over power play, Ronnie Hein sent in a hard shot that beat Spartan netminder John Lethemon and put Ohio State up 3-0.

The second goal came 17 seconds later as Tanner Laczynski out-worked his defender in front of the net and was able to take a quick pass and tuck the puck in past Lethemon.

That would end Lethemon’s night as he was pulled in favor of senior Ed Minney during a timeout taken by Danton Cole.

“Obviously the first period we were pretty average and didn’t start well the second and then called the timeout and I thought after that our guys worked a little bit harder,” said Cole.

The remainder of the second period was filled with some good chances at both ends as Minney made some timely saves, through the Spartans couldn’t crack Buckeye goaltender Sean Romeo despite two power play opportunities.

The third period was a bit more favorable with Michigan State as they finally got on the board midway through the period.

After forcing a turnover in the offensive zone, Sam Saliba sent a backhand touch pass to junior Brennan Sanford. After taking a stride, Sanford sent a hard shot that sailed across Romeo’s body and deflected off the crossbar and into the net. The goal was Sanford’s fourth of the year.

The goal seemed to jump-start MSU’s offense as they started dictating the game to Ohio State, who started dropping three or even four players back to defend in transition toward the end of the game.

With about 90 seconds remaining in regulation, MSU defenseman Jerad Rosburg cross-checked a Buckeye from behind in the right corner of the Michigan State zone. Rosburg was assessed a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. The penalty shouldn’t affect Rosburg’s status for Saturday night’s game — assuming the Big Ten doesn’t hand down any additional suspension.

The Spartans were outshot 28-22 on the night, and were zero-for-five on the man-advantage. The loss drops MSU to 8-12-1 on the season and 2-8-1 in the Big Ten.

“It was maybe the quickest post-game meeting I’ve ever had, I just told the guys ‘hey if you don’t work you don’t skate, then you’re not going to get anything done,’” said Cole.

Despite the lopsided loss, Michigan State won the third period and can take that success into Saturday’s series finale against Ohio State.

“We’ve got to build off something,” said Saliba. “It’s a 60 minute game and we’ve got to start right from the start.”

Michigan State has been resilient in the second game of a back-to-back series. This season Spartans are 5-4-1 in those contests.

“I’m a big proponent of little victories,” said Cole. “I think you have to take every one you get, especially when we’re in our situation where we’re at. We have to bump that and understand ‘hey that’s something that went right’, you know, we killed the last couple of penalties and did a nice job with that, good. Let’s recognise that and build on that.”

Another strong aspect that Cole wants to build off of is attendance. Friday night was the fourth straight game that Munn saw a crowd of more than 5,000 fans. What made Friday’s attendance even more impressive was the fact that the students are still away on winter break.

“They’ve been tremendously supportive and we certainly appreciate it and hopefully they enjoyed the last 39 minutes of the game,” Cole said. “Hopefully they’ll keep coming back, hopefully they see some resilience in our guys and there’s a blue collar-ness to ‘em and that they’ll keep figuring it out, hopefully they’ll keep coming to games.”