UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania – John Lethemon’s career high 48 saves helped the Michigan State hockey team knock off No. 6 Penn State, 2-0, in the in the Spartans’ Big Ten opener on Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena. Patrick Khodorenko scored the only goal the Spartans would need with 6:21 to go in the second period, while Logan Lambdin sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 2:02 to play.
“We’re trying to find ourselves a bit as a team and where we’re going to be,” MSU head coach Danton Cole said. “If you’re building a pyramid that base has to be exceptional hard work and battle and that’s kind of where we’re built right now.
“I thought tonight everyone was relentless and resolute. Leth was just outstanding. Every time we slipped or made a mistake he was there. You don’t fluke a shutout against Penn State, you’re going to have some big-time saves.”
Lethemon made 16 saves in the opening period, including stopping a pair of shots off a scramble in front just prior to the midway point of the opening period.
The Spartans (3-4, 1-0) had a good offensive push to start the second period, outshooting the Nittany Lions, 7-1, through the first six minutes. However, a pair of penalties at the 6:35 mark to Cole and Christian Krygier halted the Spartan momentum and gave PSU a 2-minute 5-on-3 power play. The Spartans proved equal to the task though at every turn during the two-man advantage and erased both penalties.
Seconds after Michigan State extinguished another Penn State (6-2, 2-1) power play, the Spartans took the lead on Khodorenko’s rebound goal. Mitchell Lewandowski got possession of the puck near the right circle in the PSU end and let a shot go that eventually got behind the net. Khodorenko picked up the puck from just off the left side of the crease and tucked it into the net, just inside the post.
Lethemon made 19 stops in the second period and then 13 more in the third. Lethemon’s best saves of the third came in the latter stages as he stopped Liam Folkes’ rebound attempt from below the left circle with 4:05 to play, and later Nikita Pavlechev’s one-timer from the right side.
Lambdin iced the win when he tracked down a loose puck in the PSU end and chipped it into the net with 2:02 to go.
The Spartans finished with 31 blocked shots, led by Jerad Rosburg’s game-high six.
Penn State, which came into the game second nationally in average shots on goal per game, outshot MSU 48-24.
The Spartans never had a power play opportunity on Friday, while they held Penn State to 0-for-4 on the man-advantage.
The Spartans and Nittany Lions will complete the weekend series on Saturday at 6 p.m.