EAST LANSING – The Michigan State Spartans defeated the United States U-18 National Development Team 2-1 Friday night at Munn Ice Arena in the final tune-up game of the preseason.
The United States started out fast with a flurry of shots on net aided by an early interference penalty on junior Mitchell Lewandowski. This was to no avail and the game was knotted up 0-0 for the majority of the first period.
The youthfulness and exceptional conditioning of the U.S. National Development Team showed, as they seized the momentum and outskated the Spartans throughout the first 10 minutes of play.
The savviness of the more veteran Spartan squad denied the rush and drew two tripping penalties on Princeton commit Zakary Karpa at 11:18 and Providence commit Brett Berard at 13:45.
While neither power play was successful for the Spartans, it allowed for offensive zone time and momentum to shift toward the home team.
The first goal of the matchup came from Michigan State senior center Patrick Khodorenko 19:05 into the first period. The assists were given to defenseman Dennis Cesana and Christian Krygier. The 1-0 Spartan lead would stand heading into the first intermission.
Team USA started the second out hot with a copious amount of pressure on the Spartans defensive front. A charging penalty on Jerad Rosburg didn’t help either, allowing the USA U-18 team to test out their power play. At 3:22 into the second, Harvard commit Matthew Beniers put the puck in behind Drew DeRidder to tie up the contest 1-1.
Many chances were given throughout the second for each team to test out their power play and penalty kill. The penalty kill would be more successful for both teams in the second with only one goal on five penalties allocated. The second ended 1-1 after 16 minutes of back and forth, scoreless play.
In the third period, more back and forth ensued. Two more penalties on the young and undisciplined U.S. team occurred in the third, allowing many shots on net for the Spartans. With both sides at full strength late into the third, Spartan junior Gianluca Esteves put together a nifty move and a go ahead goal. This would be the decider, with the final score of 2-1 Spartans.
As the official start of the season nears, Michigan State has lots to build on. The Spartans struggled mightily on the power play, going 0-for-7 on the night.
“I thought we did some things a little better and a little quicker than we did last week, that’s a good penalty killing team,” Michigan State head coach Danton Cole said. “I think we need to move pucks quicker and we need to get a guy in front of the net.
“When your going through power play stuff it really isn’t too far away from that. A lot of those shots weren’t bad shots, we just had nobody in front of the net. We just need to establish that, and then I think we’ll be alright. We need to put a few more pucks on net.”
They also enforced some face-off dominance, winning the battle 45-27.
“We got two of the best with Tommy Apap, he’s been one or two in the Big Ten his first two years, and Sam Saliba was fourth or fifth in the league last year,” Cole said. “It gives us a good righty lefty in the defensive zone and that’s really important. And then I think our other guys, Patrick (Khodorenko) is decent at it and I think he needs to work at it and bump over 50% this year. It’s an important part of the game.
“This is a great evaluation game, way better than practice. The pace was good, a lot of plays being made. It was a good hockey game.”
The Spartans first regular season matchup comes next Friday, Oct. 25. Michigan State travels to Colorado College, with puck drop set for 9:30 p.m. EST.
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