It was a much better effort put up by the Michigan State Hockey team Saturday night. However the Spartans fell to the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes 5-3 for their fourth consecutive loss.
“Our guys did a heck of a lot better tonight,” said Michigan State Coach Danton Cole. “I was proud of the way we worked today. They did not short-change us tonight.”
With the loss, Michigan State fell to 8-13-1 on the year and 2-9-1-1 in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes improved to 14-4-4 overall and 7-4-1 in conference play with the win.
The Spartans were competitive for two periods before falling apart in the final frame. Ohio State outscored their counterpart 3-1 in the third period to get out of Munn Ice Arena with a weekend sweep.
It was the Spartans who found the scoreboard first thanks to their super freshman Mitchell Lewandowski. With 12:46 remaining in the first period, Lewandowski put Michigan State’s first shot on goal in the back of the net for his team leading 11th goal on the year.
However, the Spartans found themselves down 2-1 at the end of the period thanks to two Ohio State goals :17 seconds in between each other. With six minutes remaining, Matthew Weis got the Buckeyes level while they were on the man advantage for his eight goal of the year. Moments later the Buckeyes had their first lead when Dearborn, MI native Dakota Joshua added his team’s second goal of the game.
“There are always different and you have to look at them like that,” said Cole regarding the :17 second stretch. “We have to deal with those. It’s a really big shift after you get scored on and you have to react to those things really well. It’s a maturity thing.”
By the end of the second period, the Spartans had knotted the game at two. Michigan State was able to accomplish what it failed to do Friday night. They stopped the bleeding and responded when facing adversity.
It was Sam Saliba who drew the Spartans even with Ohio State with his fifth goal of the year. With 14:29 remaining in the period, Saliba tipped in a shot that came off the sick of Logan Lambdin and put it past Ohio State goaltender Sean Romeo.
“There is a lot of pressure put on him,” said Cole regard Saliba. “He is great in front of the net and has a knack for scoring goals. We have been asking him to do a lot and he’s been a soldier.”
Romeo finished with 20 saves on the 23 Michigan State shots on goal.
It took just over four minutes into the third period before the Buckeyes were able to re-take the lead. During a four-on-four opportunity, John Wiitala put the puck past Michigan State goaltender Ed Minney and tallied his sixth goal on the year to put Ohio State up 3-2.
Minney made his third start on the year and first since Nov 10. He finished with 26 saves on the 31 Ohio State shots on goal, the most he has recorded in a game this year.
“I thought he was good,” said Cole. “He went in and battled and held the fort. Hopefully it is something that he can build on.”
With nine remaining, the Buckeyes doubled their lead. Joshua doubled his personal scoring total on the night and added Ohio State’s fourth goal of the game and gave his team a 4-2 lead. Two minutes later Freddy Gerard added Ohio State’s fifth goal of the night and put his team up 5-2.
In a last-ditch effort to get back in the game, Saliba put away his second goal of the game and sixth on the year to bring the Spartans within two at 5-3 with six minutes remaining. It was for not as the Buckeyes held off any thoughts of a late Spartan rally.
The Spartans return to the ice for a mid-week series at Wisconsin on Jan 12 and 13. This will conclude the first four game in six day stretch Michigan State has had since the 1976 season.