Series Grades: Michigan State
No. 16 Penn State entered the series with Michigan State on a seven-game winless streak and it reached eight after Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the Spartans. However, that streak was broken after the Lions escaped East Lansing with a 3-2 on Saturday night earning the weekend split.
The Nittany Lions are now in a tie for fifth place in the Big Ten with Wisconsin entering the final week of the regular season before conference tournament play begins.
The offense itself was a bit lackluster in the first game and inconsistent overall. The Nittany Lions only had 28 shots on goals in game one and just seemed lost at times. The Spartans were able to control the speed of the game and Penn State had serious difficulties as the Michigan State defense swarmed around the puck.
In game two, Penn State threw 37 shots on goal converted on three of them. None more impressive than the second goal Nittany Lion scored by Andrew Sturtz who now has over 100 points in his illustrious career in the blue and white. Sturtz moved around towards the right post with a toe drag and sniped a shot past netminder Ed Minney.
Penn State also scored two of their five goals this weekend on the power play. The power play itself played extremely well and kept the Lions afloat when times were tough.
The defense held its own in two tightly contested battles until the final horn. The Lions’ defensive effort in game one was spirited but just couldn’t do enough to give the offense some inspiration.
Saturday night’s defensive execution was present but began to dwindle as the night went on. A defensive lapse in the third period on a power-play goal scored by Patrick Khodorenko cut the Penn State lead from
3-1 to 3-2 and the pressure was on. Fatigue had set in and the Lions were fighting to keep the score 3-2 late in the third period and were able to do so.
Peyton Jones had himself a tough night at the office on Friday night. The sophomore goalie gave up a first-period goal to Brody Stevens that could have easily been stopped. Jones was then simply out of position on the other two goals given up to Mitchell Lewandowski. A no-look pass and one-time shot on one and a top-shelf snipe on another gave Jones zero chance to make a save.
Saturday night, especially in the third period, Jones played like he did during the Big Ten Tournament last year. The sophomore made 17 saves in the third period alone and came up clutch down the stretch as the Spartans attacked the net with ferocity throughout the last three minutes of the game.
The No. 16 team split a series that they could have walked into East Lansing and easily swept the last place Spartans. However, that was not the case this weekend.
Gadowsky’s troops still have a lot of inconsistencies in every part of their game. Mental lapses on defense kept the Lions playing catch up in game one and almost squandering a two-goal lead in game two. Then flat offensive presence and production put pressure on the defense and Peyton Jones. If this team wants to compete against the top of the conference in the Big Ten Tournament and potentially make the NCAA Tournament, they will need to clean up their play in order to make a statement in the coming weeks.
Christopher Hess is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in history. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.