Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

No. 11 Michigan State bounces back against No. 17 Penn State

Mia Nishanian
MSU graduate forward Reed Lebster chases down the puck against Penn State on Saturday, November 11, 2023 at Munn Ice Arena.

EAST LANSING – After a crowd-silencing shootout loss against No. 17 ranked Penn State, No. 11 Michigan State took to the Ron Mason Rink at Munn Ice Arena for the second of the two game series.

After the opening faceoff was won by MSU’s Tiernan Shoudy, his line mate Tanner Kelly opened scoring in the game almost immediately with an unassisted goal 30 seconds into play. The Nittany Lions didn’t leave it unanswered for long, getting on the board early with a goal from drafted freshman Aiden Fink 3:01 into the first period. Not 20 seconds later, his teammate Chase McLane put Penn State up to a 2-1 lead.

The style of play appeared to be different from Friday’s game. Both teams steered away from the dump and run style to a more refined game of hockey which Michigan State head coach Adam Nightingale praises as the “Spartan brand of hockey.” In both games, Nightingale also chose to scratch drafted freshman defenseman Maxim Štrbák and junior David Gucciardi who is second in the Big Ten for penalty minutes. Coming in at third and fourth are Spartans Shoudy and Daniel Russell as well. Tanner Kelly reflected on the aggressive nature of his line, citing his size and how he tries “to play a little bit bigger” than he is.

After a high scoring first five minutes of the game, the rest of the first period saw no more goals for either team. The Spartans were outshot seven to 17. 

Early in the second period, Penn State’s Dane Dowiak took a hit that resulted in him heading down the tunnel, but he returned to the game before the end of the period without any apparent injuries. Just before the half-point mark in both the game and second period alternate captain Nicolas Müller was able to tie the game up for the Spartans at 2-2, assisted by defensive partners captain Nash Nienhuis and freshman Artyom Levshunov. Freshman Gavin O’Connell got himself on the board with only two minutes left in the period to put the Spartans ahead once again. Penn State was quick to answer the goals, with forward Dylan Lugris tying the game up once again only 43 seconds later.

After playing a feisty first two periods, the Spartans did not slow down. O’Connell netted his second against Penn State goaltender Liam Souliere in a span of six minutes of play to continue his lead as MSU’s top goal scorer. Nightingale reflected that O’Connell had always had “swagger” and hadn’t been intimidated by other guys when the two worked together in the United States Development Program. 

“When he walked into that locker room, he wasn’t intimidated,” said Nightingale. “I think part of being an elite athlete is you have to be a little bit of an alpha. He had that confidence and swagger walking into this locker room, and he’s had a good start to the year.” 

O’Connell noted his strong last season in the USHL, where he recorded 50 points with the Waterloo Black Hawks, as being a source for a lot of his confidence coming into the season.

“I knew obviously coming into college it was going to be pretty tough, just change of speed and older guys, but I’d always have confidence in myself, so once it started going in for me, I was pretty excited,” said O’Connell. 

The aggressive game came to an equally aggressive close when Christian Berger took a two minute minor for roughing, leaving Penn State on the penalty kill for the remaining 1:15 while the Spartans still held a 4-3 lead. 

In one last attempt to net a goal, Souliere was pulled from net, but an offensive mishap led to a breakaway by Spartan defenseman Artyom Levshunov who was able to score empty net for his fourth goal of the season to give the Spartans a two goal lead with 40 seconds left on the clock. Even after the final whistle was blown, Tyler Paquette continued to stand over Patrick Geary and the two sustained a pair of minor penalties between them for roughing after the whistle.

“There’s certain penalties you’re okay with taking,” said Nightingale. “Lazy penalties, those are the ones that you don’t wanna take. We play a physical game, you gotta get right to the edge, and if you’re never taking any, you’re probably pretty easy to play against.”

The Spartans will look to use this momentum as they host their second Big Ten home series against the No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers next weekend. Puck drop is set for Friday at 7 p.m ET.

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Mia Nishanian, Visual Media Director

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