Michigan State came into this weekend ranked No. 19 in the nation and tied for second place with opponent Penn State. Both teams are one point behind Ohio State for first place in the conference. This was Michigan State’s first time under Danton Cole that the Spartans had a regular season series with this big of playoff implications.
“That’s a big game for our guys,” said Cole, “We talk a lot about opportunities and tonight was one of them, and I thought they did an outstanding job.”
The Spartans showed everyone they’re ready for these kinds of moments. They came out in the first period behind a packed Munn Ice Arena crowd and established physicality and out-shot the fourth best offense in America 15-6 in the first period.
In big games like this, you expect the seniors to lead the charge. That is exactly what John Lethemon and Patrick Khodorenko did for this Spartan team. Lethemon faced the fourth best offense in the nation and turned away 40 of Penn State’s 42 shots.
Khodorenko paced the Michigan State offense by scoring two goals on his first two shots of the game. He also scored his 50th career goal, which is the first time since 2009 that a Spartan has hit that mark.
“I really wasn’t looking forward to that 50 number but obviously it’s nice to pop a few and get the win,” said Khodorenko.
Thanks to a cushion goal from Khodorenko to complete his hat trick, Michigan State stole game one from the No. 9 team in the country. Thanks to an Ohio State loss against Minnesota, the Spartans will wake up Saturday in first place in the Big Ten with a chance to extend their lead if they can sweep the Nittany Lions.
This was a statement win and arguably the biggest win Michigan State hockey has had since early last season when the Spartans swept No. 4 Cornell on the road. However, this game may be bigger because of the postseason implications that came with it. The Spartans now control their own destiny and are poised to get a bye in the Big Ten tournament.
Contact Kyle Hatty at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @KyleHattyIN.