EAST LANSING – The 20th-ranked Michigan State Spartans scored three goals in the first period and went on to defeat Minnesota, 4-1, on Friday night before a sellout crowd of 6,346 at Munn Ice Arena. Patrick Khodorenko had a goal and two assists to lead MSU, while Mitchell Lewandowski had a goal and an assist.
“I thought our guys played well, they were physical, just hard to get through,” MSU head coach Danton Cole said. “We talk a lot about playing that way and being on the right side of the puck and they did.”
The Spartans (11-9-1, 7-3-1) cashed in on their first power-play chance of the game to take a 1-0 lead at the 7:23 mark. Sam Saliba and Khodorenko set up a wide-open Lewandowski at the top of the crease, who one-timed the puck past goaltender Jack LaFontaine.
On the ensuing faceoff after the goal, pressure by the Spartans led to a 2-0 lead, just 24 seconds later. Brody Stevens and Tommy Apap got control of the puck and got it to Ginaluca Esteves in the right circle, who wasted no time and snapped it high over LaFontaine.
With the Gophers’ only power play of the opening period coming to an end, Lewandowski and Khodorenko teamed up to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead late in the first. With the MSU penalty time expiring, Lewandowski was able to get the puck along the boards near the Gopher blue line end and carry it into the neutral zone. Upon entering the Minnesota end, Lewandowski made a perfect pass onto the tape of Khodorenko’s stick and the senior put the puck past LaFontaine with 1:32 to play in the opening stanza.
The Spartans finished the first period with a 9-3 advantage in shots on goal and limited the Gophers (7-10-4, 2-5-4-3) to seven through the first 40 minutes.
“I thought the first period was pretty methodical, there weren’t a lot of shots in the first four or five minutes,” Cole said. “On our end, mentally and maturely I thought our guys handled that. You want to force some things maybe and get something going at home, but they held with it, didn’t give up any shots, and then slowly built up down on the other end. I thought Minnesota came at us pretty hard right out of the gate, so I liked that. Lethemon played really well.”
Th Spartans added to their lead just past the midway point of the second period as Sam Saliba finished an odd-man rush by extending his scoring streak to three games. Jerad Rosburg carried the puck out of the MSU zone and up ice and allowed Saliba to get behind the Gopher defense before dishing him the puck deep in the Minnesota zone. Saliba made a quick move then lifted the puck past goaltender Jared Moe, who replaced LaFontaine to start the second period.
Seven penalties to the Spartans in the third period gave the Gophers six power plays in the final 20 minutes. The Spartans killed five of the six power plays, but Jackson Lacombe broke the shutout bid with 6:22 to go, making the score 4-1.
MSU went 1-for-3 on the power play in the game, while Minnesota was 1-for-8.
Minnesota outshot the Spartans, 26-24, with the help of 19 shots in the third period.
The Spartans and Gophers will meet again on Saturday with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m.