EAST LANSING, Mich. — It was another one-goal win for Michigan State, but if the Spartans had their way they would’ve won by a lot more.
Michigan State edged Lake Superior State 4-3 Friday night at Munn Arena.
The Spartans got out to a 4-0 lead in the third period before giving up three unanswered goals — two on the power play — to make in interesting in the final minutes.
“One play turns into two goals and then it was a ball-game and then they got a good tip on the power play and all of a sudden it’s 4-3 but I liked the way, again we’re going to find ourselves in [one-goal] situations and I’d rather be battling at the end of the game protecting a lead then trying to tie it up,” Spartan coach Danton Cole said.
Sam Saliba got the scoring started for MSU late in the first period off a goal-mouth scramble following a rebound.
After killing off back-to-back Laker power plays in the second period, sophomore Patrick Khodorenko made it 2-0 Spartans when he came in with Taro Hirose on the right side. Khodorenko then received a drop pass for Hirose and let loose a hard wrist shot that was too hard for Laker netminder Nick Kossoff to handle. The puck deflected off Kossoff and into the back of the net and marked the 8th total point for the entire “KHL Line” (Khodorenko, Hirose and Mitch Lewandowski) as every member touched the puck prior to the goal.
The Spartans stuck again late in the second period after Spartan freshman Jake Smith forced a turnover in the high slot.
“We kinda had ‘em hemmed in their zone and I looped back in the high slot and the puck went right off their, one of their players made a bad pass and went right on my stick and I just kinda took a step the the left and shot it high glove and luckily it went in,” Smith said.
Smith, coming from the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League, was a 32 goal scorer in the regular season last year so getting that first goal was certainly a big moment for his confidence at the collegiate level.
“Smitty’s [Smith] got a great shot and we all seen that quite a bit, I mean he can come down and snipe top shelf and that young man [Kossoff] is a really good goalie and a pretty big kid so it’s a tough place to beat him,” Cole said.
The Spartans took a 3-0 lead into the third period and built off it with Logan Lambdin’s first goal of the year just over a minute in.
However, 36 seconds later Lake Superior State got one back as Laker forward Brayden Gelsinger scored short-side to put LSSU on the board.
The goal came on a delayed penalty call to Lambdin and under college rules the penalty was enforced regardless of the goal. On the ensuing man-advantage, the Laker power-play unit, which was ranked 7th in the nation coming into Friday, finally broke through and all of a sudden it was a 4-2 game with over 16 minutes left to play.
“We ended up slipping away a little bit there,” Lambdin said. “Of course that’s not what we want but everyone ended up staying positive and playing the right way still.”
Michigan State had their own back-to-back power play opportunity in the third to put some more distance between themselves and Lake Superior State but could not take advantage of it. Less than a minute into the second Spartan power play of that sequence, (third overall in the game) Cody Milan was called fora tripping minor in front of the Lake Superior net.
This gave the Lakers 55 seconds of power play time, and once again they capitalised.
A hard shot from the point was deflected by Laker sophomore Max Humitz in front to make it 4-3 pulled the Lakers within one with six minutes and change left to go.
Still, the Spartans remained poised emotionally on the bench.
“I didn’t sense any real panic or young team hey let’s settle them down and change their diapers or anything like that I think we were alright,” Cole said.
The Spartans were able to hold on and shut down the Lakers, who didn’t really get a prime scoring opportunity in the late stages.
“You know, hand it to them [Lake State] they made it real interesting at the end, but throughout that game we knew we had that and it was very important for our bench to keep a positive attitude,” Smith said.
Michigan State improves to 3-2-0 overall on the year and starts 3-0 at home for the first time since 2009.
“Being at home in college hockey, it should help and I thought the crowd had good life again tonight and I know at some point, as hard as these guys are playing and the buzz that’s around, at some point there’s going to be 2500 more people in here and it’s going to be sold out and this place will be rocking,” Cole said.
For the second straight week the Spartans will be in position to sweep an opponent on Saturday. But like last week it seems a safe bet that the Lakers will come out angry and motivated after falling short on Friday.
“We know it’s always tough to sweep weekends, we know that we’re going to get their best. But they’re going to get our best so we’re ready for the challenge,” Saliba said.