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Neil’s Notebook: Fast Start and Solid Game Leads to Road Victory at No. 13 OSU

March 4, 2017

By Neil Koepke staff writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Here’s how it went for Michigan State on Friday night at Value City Arena:

• A great first period and a shocking 4-0 lead.

• Some special-teams leaks in the second 20 minutes, with the lead down to two goals.

• A strong and smart third period defensively.

• And a much-needed victory.

Led by three goals from the fourth line – two by freshman Logan Lambdin and one by sophomore Cody Milan, who also had two assists – the Spartans held on to upset No. 13 Ohio State, 5-4, in the opening game of a Big Ten series.

The victory was Michigan State’s fifth on the road this season and ended a four-game losing streak. MSU is 5-6-1 on enemy ice and has won three straight on the road.

The sixth-place Spartans (7-21-3 overall, 3-12-2-0 Big Ten) and fourth-place Buckeyes (17-10-6, 8-8-1-1) meet in the series finale at 8 p.m. Saturday, also at Value City Arena.

“We played smart throughout the game and got huge contributions from Woody’s (Connor Wood) line. They were solid,” Spartans coach Tom Anastos said. “They made good decisions going to the net. “Our point of emphasis this week was just ‘hit the goalie’ with our shots. We changed our approach from hit the net. You have to get bodies I front, too. We got rewarded for it tonight.’’

The Spartans, who led 4-0 after the first period and 5-3 after the second, got burned on special teams in the second period, allowing Ohio State to get back in the game.

The Buckeyes scored a power-play goal by standout Nick Schilkey early in the second, which was answered by MSU’s Logan Lambdin’s second goal five minutes later.



After an odd-man rush goal by OSU made it 5-2, the Buckeyes capitalized while killing a penalty as the Spartans’ Taro Hirose, coming up the ice, lost the puck at his own blue line, and Mason Jobst, Ohio State’s top scorer, got possession and dashed in alone to score and make it a two-goal game at 5-3.

Michigan State shut down another OSU power play with five minutes left in the period – a very key moment in the game – and took their two-goal lead into the third period.

“It was a good effort overall and our defense competed hard tonight. We did a pretty good job of managing the puck,’’ Anastos said. “A couple plays cost us two goals, but in the third period, I don’t think there was a lot of danger until they got the (late) power-play goal.’’

With MSU defenseman Jerad Rosburg in the penalty box for hooking in front of his net at 14:38, Ohio State’s David Gust scored on a one-timer from the right circle with 4:17 left in the third period.

The Buckeyes, suddenly energized, pushed for the tying goal, but the Spartans handled the adversity. They were solid defensively and survived a few scrambles in front of the net as freshman goalie John Lethemon made a couple of good saves and managed to smother loose pucks.

Lethemon, in earning his second career win, made 26 saves.

OSU starting goalie Christian Fry stopped nine shots and gave up four goals in the first period, and was replaced by fellow-senior Matt Tomkins to start the middle period. Tomkins stopped 17 shots and the two goalies combined for 28 saves.

“I thought we played a good third period. Their power play is a key to their success and we opened the door for them at the end,’’ Anastos said. “Until that point, I don’t they had a good scoring chance. That gave them some momentum.

“We weren’t as aggressive in the offensive zone as we were in the first two periods, but we wanted to make sure we were responsible defensively. We had a good high guy and kept them going back for the puck and made them play in front of us and try to go through us.’’

The Spartans’ four goals in the opening period came at 6:44 (by Lambdin, quick break-in and a nifty backhander), 10:45 (Thomas Ebbing, deflection), 11:57 (Milan, deflection) and 17:29 (Sam Saliba, rebound).

Lambdin got his second goal at 7:25 of the second period, firing in his own rebound after a setup pass from Lambdin, to make 5-1.

Wood, the center on the fourth unit with Lambdin on right wing and Milan on the right side, didn’t pick up an assist, but was on the ice for two of the goals in the first period.

“It feels great. We’re coming in here and we’re expected to throw a couple bodies around and add a physical presence,’’ said Lambdin, 21, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound freshman from Newport, Mich. “So, when you score, that’s just a big bonus.’’

Lambdin and Milan shocked the Buckeyes just under seven minutes into the game when Lambdin forced a turnover, and with the help of Milan, they turned it into the first goal of the game.

“They were breaking out of their zone and I read the guy cutting back and got a body on him and Cody picked up the loose puck and we came down on a 2-on-1,’’ Lambdin said. “He made a great pass to me (in the middle) and I had a nice little breakaway and I buried it.’’

Lambdin, who now has six goals and six assists for 12 points in 30 games, credits Connor Wood for maybe confusing OSU goalie Christian Fry.

“Usually, I’m just a shooter (in that situation),’’ Lambdin said. “But Woody should get an apple on that because he’s coming down the ice behind me and he’s going ‘shoot, shoot.’ So, the goalie is thinking I’m going to shoot the whole way in. And he drops right away.’’

Lambdin faked left, pulled the puck back to his backhand and calmly lifted it into the wide-open net.

“I just haven’t been putting up numbers lately and two big points feels great,’’ he said. “I haven’t had one of those in a long time.’’

Lambdin’s other two-point game was in the second game of the season at Lake Superior State when he had a goal and an assist. The two-goal game is the first as a Spartan.

What did Lambdin like best about the way his team played Friday? “I think mainly it was all the energy we had in the first period. Everyone was going to the net, throwing the puck to the net and we put a lot of pressure on their goalie,’’ he said.

“We got a couple of bad bounces in the second period and they started to come back but we stayed to the game plan. We kept pucks behind their defense, making them go back to retrieve it and getting bodies on their defense. We made them dump the puck in and we were getting pucks out.’’

Milan, with a career-high three points with a goal and two assists, said the emphasis in practice this week was to get shot on the goaltender and get to the net to look for rebounds and tips. The Spartans did that and were rewarded with scoring chances and goals.

“All week, we were focused on getting pucks to the net and stopping at the net, and if you missed the net, you had to do 10 push-ups,’’ he said. “So, I think we were dialed in today and this was probably our best performance with shots hitting the net.’’

Milan went into the game with no goals and two assists and came out with one goal and four assists on the season with his best outing as a Spartan.

“You know it’s going to be a good night when the fourth line can step up and get three goals. We need that secondary scoring,’’ said Milan, 20, a 6-foot-1, 188-pound sophomore from White Lake, Mich. “On my first assist, Lammer made a great play in the middle of the ice to force a turnover, and we went in on a transition (play) and I hit him with a pass and he made a nice play to score.

“On my goal, I got to the net and (defenseman) Rhett (Holland) put it right in there and good things happen when you go to the net. I deflected it with stick.

“On Lambdin’s second goal, we kept the puck in the zone and I was able to make a play to him in the middle and he did the rest.’’

With leads of 4-0 and 5-1, the Spartans expected a pushback from the Buckeyes, the third-highest scoring team in the nation.

“They’re really a good team that scores a lot of goals and has a great power play,’’ Milan said. “We knew we weren’t going to keep scoring at that pace and that they would come back. But give credit to our guys as a team, with the will to keep fighting and getting the job done.’’

For sure, it was hectic in the last four minutes, but Michigan State showed some poise and played well in the defensive zone to get some revenge on the Buckeyes, who swept the Spartans two weeks ago in East Lansing, 3-2 and 4-3.

The last time MSU scored four goals in the first period was against Michigan on Nov. 11, 2012. The Spartans went on to a 7-2 victory at Munn Arena.

SPARTAN POTPOURRI: Four MSU defensemen earned assists on two goals in the first period. Mitch Eliot and Jerad Rosburg set up Thomas Ebbing’s goal at 10:45, with Eliot’s shot from along the right boards deflecting in off of Ebbing’s stick. On Milan’s goal, at 14:57, Rhett Holland and Damian Chrcek earned assists with Holland firing the puck at the net from the right boards and going in off of Milan’s stick. … Holland increased his point streak to a career-high four games with a goal and three assists starting on Feb 18 vs. OSU. The fifth-year senior also has a point in five of his last six games and six points (3-3) in six of his last eight contests. For the season, Holland has three goals and five assists for eight points. … MSU was 1-for-2 on the power play on Friday and had five shots on goal. OSU was 2-for-3 with three shots. … Freshman Sam Saliba scored his seventh goal of the season on a power play late in the first period, with linemates Mason Appleton and Taro Hirose assisting. … The Spartans will be seeking their first sweep of the season on Saturday. Three times, they’ve won and tied – at North Dakota (4-3 win, 2-2 tie) in late November, vs. Michigan in a home-and-home series (3-0 win in Ann Arbor and 2-2 tie at home) in January and again against the Wolverines in February (2-2 tie in Detroit, 4-1 win in Ann Arbor).

IN THE BIG TEN: No. 16 Wisconsin moved into a tie for first place with No. 5 Minnesota with a 7-4 victory at No. 11 Penn State while the Gophers were upset by Michigan, 5-3, in Ann Arbor. The Badgers (19-11-1 overall, 12-5-0 Big Ten) took a 3-1 lead 13 minutes into the second period, but the third-place Nittany Lions (20-9-2, 9-7-1-0) scored two goals within 58 seconds to tie it with 1:22 left in the period. But Wisconsin regained the lead at 4-3 with 12 seconds left in the middle period on Matt Ustaski’s unassisted goal.

In the final period, Wisconsin boosted its lead to 5-3 at 4:03 but PSU made it 5-4 at 5:12. The Badgers scored two goals in the last five minutes, including one into an empty net, to seal the win and climb into a tie for the league lead.

Both Wisconsin and Minnesota are 12-5 in league play, with 36 points with three games remaining.

The Gophers (21-10-2, 12-5-0-0) took a 2-0 lead on goals by Taylor Cammarata and Rem Pitlick in the first period at U-M. But the Wolverines tied it on goals by Alex Kile at 3:42 and Tony Calderone at 16:04 of the second period.

Minnesota went up 3-2 lead on Vinni Lettieri’s goal with 6:22 left in the third but the Gophers couldn’t close it out. With Justin Kloos in the penalty box for slashing after a breakaway by U-M, the Wolverines tied it on Jake Slaker’s power-play goal at 16:22.

Michigan (11-17-3, 4-11-2-2) struck again just 1 minute and 25 seconds later as Evan Allan beat Minnesota goalie Eric Schierhorn at 17:49 for a 4-3 lead. Will Lockwood hit the empty net with 53 seconds left to seal Michigan’s second straight win.

The last time the Wolverines won back-to-back games this season was at Arizona State (4-1) on Nov. 4 and home to Boston University (4-0) on Nov. 11. U-M hasn’t swept a series all season.

The Michigan-Minnesota and Wisconsin-Penn State series conclude on Saturday night.

Next weekend, in the final three series of the regular season, Michigan State is at Minnesota, Wisconsin plays host to Ohio State and Penn State visits Michigan.

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