Numerous times this season the Michigan State Hockey team (6-18-3) has had opportunities to defeat ranked opponents and attempt to turn their season around. Another one of those moments occurred Friday night when the Spartans took on the #14 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (15-8-6). In the past MSU has come up just shy from pulling off the upset and yet again Michigan State came up just a goal short in a 3-2 loss to OSU.
The Spartans and Buckeyes played an up and down first period with not many breaks-in-action that resulted in both teams being locked up at 2-2. Michigan State came right out of the game with tons of energy, firing eight shots on goal within the first 10 minutes of play and just missing out on numerous scoring chances. After surviving the Spartans’s initial rush, it was the Buckeyes who found the back of the net first.
With a mad scramble in front of MSU goalie John Lethemon, Buckeyes forward Dakota Joshua appeared to shove the puck past the line. There was no initial signal by any ref even though the Ohio State bench was celebrating the goal. Eventually the play would go under review and confirmed the OSU goal.
MSU head coach Tom Anastos stated, ” I really liked the traffic that we had out in front of the net early.”
Less than two minutes later Michigan State was able to find a response. After forward Thomas Ebbing sent a shot to the net that was saved by OSU goalie, Christian Frey, MSU forward Brennan Sanford crashed the net. The rebound came right to the direction of Sanford who slapped the puck past Frey for his third goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1.
Just three minutes later the Buckeyes re-took the lead thanks to an unbelievable individual effort by Tanner Laczynski. After making an open-ice steal at the center circle, Laczynski skated the puck into the MSU zone, put on a nifty deke to beat the Spartan defender, and one-timed a wrist shot past Lethemon to put OSU back up 2-1. The Spartans were able to tie the game back up at 2-2 with 20 seconds remaining in the period thanks to a power play goal by senior Villiam Haag.
The Spartans held the advantage in shots on goal with a 16-14 lead after the first 20 minutes.
Compared to the first period, the second 20 minutes of the game was a “snooze fest”. No goals were scored in the second period and each team had very minimal scoring chances. MSU added 13 shots on goal to bring their game total to 29 while OSU added seven to bring their game total to 21.
The Buckeyes were able to come out of the gates in the third period and re-take the lead only one minute and 45 seconds into the final frame. Buckeyes forward John Wiitala was able to tip a shot while screening John Lethemon and found the back of the net for his 10th goal of the season and to put Ohio State back up 3-2.
Michigan State appeared to have tied the game with just under five minutes remaining when Sam Saliba tipped a high shot past Christian Frey. The ref next to the net immediately waved the goal off for a high stick. To confirm the call the play went under review and the call for a no goal on the ice stood as called.
Anastos stated that the ref told him after waiving the goal off that, ” He was 100% certain that the stick was over the crossbar.”
Michigan State had one last shot to send the game to an extra period. The Spartans would be on the power play for the final minute and 46 seconds of the game but could not find the equalizer as Ohio State finished off the Spartans with a 3-2 victory.
In his second straight start John Lethemon had a solid game in between the pipes for MSU saving 23 of the 26 OSU shots on goal. Unfortunately on this night an 88% save percentage was not enough to get past Ohio State.
Talking about Lethemon’s play Anastos stated, “John’s confidence is on the rise and that is the most important thing especially for a goalie. I thought he looked very confident late.”
After the game Anastos also stated that forward JT Stenglein is out for the remainder of the season with a sports hernia injury.
Michigan State have failed to beat a ranked opponent at home since March of 2016 against Minnesota who was ranked #5 at the time.
Michigan State’s home losing streak is now up to eight straight games with the loss
The Buckeyes and Spartans will meet up again tomorrow night Feb 18 for their final game this season in East Lansing.