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Khodorenko’s Hat Trick Lifts No. 19 Spartans Past No. 9 Penn State, 4-2

 Michigan State University
Michigan State University (WILX)
Published: Jan. 25, 2020 at 12:01 AM EST
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EAST LANSING – Patrick Khodorenko’s three-goal game pushed the No. 19 Michigan State hockey team past No. 9 Penn State, 4-2, on Friday night at Munn Ice Arena in front of a crowd of over 6,000. Goaltender John Lethemon made 40 saves as the Spartans (13-11-1, 9-5-1) moved into first place in the Big Ten, two points ahead of Ohio State.

“It was a heck of a game,” MSU head coach Danton Cole said. “I like where the guys battled. We did some things extremely well especially early in the first period. We got away from some of that the second period but I thought on the back side of the puck, defensively, they kept working, they kept blocking shots and that’s probably no way to play Penn State, but they hung in there and figured out a way to come back with the lead going into the third.

“It was a big game for our guys, and we talk a lot about opportunities and tonight was one of them. I thought they did an outstanding job. Our big guys were good and everyone else battled.”

The Spartans outshot the Nittany Lions (16-8-1, 8-6-1) by a count of 15-6 in the first period and eventually got on the board with 1:37 to go on the first of three perfect shots on the night by Khodorenko.

A neutral-zone turnover just outside the PSU blue line led to Gianluca Esteves getting ahold of the puck and carrying it down into the left circle. Esteves just dished it back to Khodorenko, who one-timed high into the far corner of the net.

The goal was the 50th of Khodorenko’s career.

Penn State pushed back in the second period, but Lethemon kept the Spartans in front with several big saves early on, including stopping Nate Sucese on a breakaway just over a minute into the stanza. Sucese deked and went to the backhand, but Lethemon stretched across the crease and snagged the puck with his glove.

The Spartans withstood the PSU barrage and were able to take a 2-0 lead with 6:43 to play on a breakaway goal by Khodorenko.

Off a turnover, Dennis Cesana grabbed the puck and found Khodorenko all alone in the neutral zone. With no one between Khodorenko and the goaltender, the Spartan senior cruised in and snapped a shot past goaltender Peyton Jones for his second of the game.

Penn State eventually got the puck past Lethemon with 3:19 to play in the middle stanza as defenseman Cole Hults’ shot from the high slot made it a 2-1 game.

Michigan State regained its two-goal lead nearly eight minutes into the third period when Cole Krygier lit the lamp on snap shot. After a faceoff in the right circle in the PSU end, Adam Goodsir got the puck at the right hash along the boards, spotted Krygier at the opposite point, and hit him with a perfect pass. Krygier toe-dragged and then snapped a low shot past Jones for his third goal of the season with 12:20 to go.

A Penn State penalty at the 11:59 mark of the third gave the Spartans a chance to extend the lead and they did just that as Khodorenko completed the hat trick with a power-play goal. Khodorenko got the puck from Cesana, walked in an ripped the puck from the left circle high on the short side past Jones to make it 4-1 with 7:08 to go.

“He was good,” Cole said of Khodorenko. “His first shot, we see that a lot; he’s got a cannon. I would love to see him shoot more but we saw that on all three of his goals tonight - those are NHL shots.”

Khodorenko’s hat trick was the second of his career.

Penn State pulled Jones with over five minutes to play and eventually scored with the extra attacker as Tyler Gratton made it 4-2 with 22 seconds to go.

MSU erased the only PSU power play, which came in the second period, while it was 1-for-2 on the man-advantage.

PSU finished with a 42-32 advantage in shots on goal.

The Spartans and Nittany Lions will meet again on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Munn.

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