Hockey: Spartans Top Northern Michigan in Season Opener, 5-3

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MARQUETTE -- The Michigan State hockey team won its season opener on Friday night, topping Northern Michigan, 5-3, at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. Tommy Apap scored two goals, while Brody Stevens added a goal and an assist to lead MSU. John Lethemon made 28 saves, including 13 in the third period.

“I thought we battled tonight,” MSU head coach Danton Cole said. “It’s early on, there’s some rust, some timing things and hopefully tomorrow, that will be better. But, we’re in a hostile environment where it would have been easy to cave in and lose your cool, but we didn’t.

“I love the way we battled and we’ll just keep getting better.”

Power-play goals were the story of the opening period as the teams were both perfect on the man-advantage.

The Spartans grabbed a 1-0 just over five minutes into the first when Cole Krygier converted on a one-timer, set up by freshmen Jagger Joshua and Josh Nodler. Joshua gave the puck to Nodler near the left circle, who sent a perfect cross-ice feed to Krygier, who hammered it past goaltender Nolan Kent.

Northern Michigan tied it up with 2:03 to play on a similar goal with Hank Sorensen scoring on a one-timer through traffic from the left point.

A late penalty to the Wildcats gave the Spartans another chance to strike and they took advantage. From just off the side of the net near the right corner, Logan Lambdin set up a streaking Dennis Cesana near the left circle, who put the puck past Kent to regain the lead for MSU, 2-1, with 55 seconds to go in the period.

The Spartans were able to extend their lead to 3-1 just 52 seconds into the middle stanza on a rebound goal by Apap. Gianluca Esteves brought the puck into the NMU zone along the left side and it found its way to Stevens, who snapped the puck on net. Kent made the initial save but Apap batted the puck in from the top of the crease

NMU cut the deficit to a goal on another power-play goal, this time from Vincent deMey just prior to the midway point of the third period.

The Spartans responded to make it 4-2 less than two minutes later when Apap took advantage of a misplay by Kent behind the NMU net. Apap did just enough to bother Kent, got the puck and chipped it high into the net from the goal line off the right post with 8:49 to play.

The two-goal lead quickly disappeared as just 28 seconds later as Tanner Vescio went to the net and flicked a rebound past Lethemon to make it a 4-3 game.

NMU went to the power play with 4:32 to play, but the Spartans diffused every chance, despite the Wildcats keeping the puck in the zone for the first 1:42 of the power play.

Stevens sealed the win for the Spartans with 33 seconds to go, scoring an empty netter from the left circle.
NMU finished with a 31-21 edge in shots on goal. Both teams were 2-for-5 on the power play.

The two teams will meet in the series finale on Saturday at 6 p.m.