Nittany Lions Fail to Capitalize, Fall to Michigan State 2-0
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For the second time this year, the highest-scoring offense in all of Division I men’s hockey last season was shut out. The sixth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions took the ice on Friday night hoping to build on an impressive home sweep of the Wisconsin Badgers last weekend. But failure to capitalize on opportunities and an all-time performance from Michigan State goaltender John Lethemon resulted in a 2-0 loss for the home team.
One look at the shot battle tells a story of offensive dominance for the usually goal-happy Nittany Lions, which outshot the Spartans, 48-24. But the scoreboard told another story.
To say that Penn State had its chances would be an understatement. From the opening faceoff, the Nittany Lions played the role of the aggressor, outshooting the Spartans, 16-4, in the first period. Although they couldn’t find the net in the first 20 minutes, thanks in large part to excellent goaltending from Lethemon, the Nittany Lions kept up the pressure, bringing that offensive aggression into the second period and outshooting the Spartans, 19-9.
But Lethemon held steady once again, as he would for the rest of the night, blanking the Nittany Lions on 48 total shot attempts. Although the Spartans defense deserves acclaim for blocking 31 shots from the point, everyone knew that Lethemon’s shutout night was one for the ages.
“Goalies have one job, and [Lethemon] did that tonight,” Michigan State head coach Danton Cole said. “Johnny sniffed [everything] out. He had a good hockey sense along with some great saves. He held his ground.”
Although the entirety of Lethemon’s night was a highlight reel, his finest moment came midway through the third period. Trailing 1-0 thanks to a second-period goal from senior forward Patrick Khodorenko that snuck past goaltender Peyton Jones’ right foot, the Nittany Lions hounded the net on three different scoring opportunities that took place over the course of about 20 seconds. But Lethemon stopped all three shots, much to the chagrin of the Penn State crowd that had gone from cheers of excitement to sighs of disappointment three times in under half a minute.
The deal was sealed 10 minutes later, as senior forward Logan Lambdin notched an empty-netter with 2:02 remaining in the third period to secure a 2-0 victory for the visiting team.
Penn State’s struggles to complete were not at all mended by the power play, as all three opportunities, one of which was a five-on-three, resulted in empty outcomes.
“There was some good and there was some bad,” senior forward Liam Folkes said. “We got shots through, but we also turned it over quite a few times. We could have done a little better with that five-on-three. In my opinion, that was definitely one of the turning points.”
Despite the shutout loss, Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky was actually rather happy with the way his team performed.
“I think we did a lot of things really, really well,” Gadowsky said. “Obviously, we’d like to have a couple chances back to bury some that we didn’t, but, all in all, we played very well. Quite honestly, I’d rather see what we saw tonight than eking one out like we did against Sacred Heart.”
Although the Nittany Lions couldn’t put a point on the scoreboard, there were some positives to take away. For one, they didn’t commit a penalty all night: a first for the Nittany Lions this year. Penn State’s 48 shots on goal also ranks as a team high this season.
“I think if we take a 48-24 shot differential and even our power plays, we take that game 99 times out of 100,” senior defenseman Kris Myllari said. “You just have to tip your cap to that goaltender. You’re going to run into great goaltending in this league. The challenge for us is to replicate that performance and hopefully get better results.”
Penn State will have a chance to even the series on Saturday night at 6 p.m. Following the conclusion of Game 2 against Michigan State, the Nittany Lions will continue Big Ten play by embarking on the road for the first time this season, starting with a two-game set in Minnesota on the weekend of Nov. 15 and 16.
DJ Bauer is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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