Nov. 9, 2012
East Lansing, Mich - Michigan State continued its improbable march to a championship game on Friday, downing No. 1 seed Penn State, 3-1, in Friday's semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. The Spartans will now take on archrival Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament final on Sunday. Adam Montague and Cody Henderson each recorded both a goal and an assist on the day, leading the Spartans offensive attack to its second three-goal game of the season.
Michigan State advances to the finals for just the fifth time in school history. The Spartans have won two Big Ten Tournament championships, in 2004 and 2008.
"I think our guys set the tone early, and we talked about having a good, quick pace of play," said head coach Damon Rensing. " I think that we had a mindset of being the aggressors.
"We really executed, and defended well as a group. Our offense is showing what it's capable of, and I really think that the reason that we're producing at the rate we are in recent games is because of the continuity we were finally able to establish in our lineup," continued the head coach. "We talked a bit about our loss to PSU in the regular season, and that's a bit of motivation. Looking forward to Sunday, we will have lost to whomever we play in the regular season, too. That will be a little extra to get us focused on our task at hand for Sunday."
The Nittany Lions, the tournament's No. 1 seed by virtue of a 1-0 victory over co-champion Northwestern, was coming into the game on a 10-day layoff, while MSU not only played in a quarterfinal game on Wednesday, but also twice last week; the second game was an emotional 1-0 loss at Michigan last Saturday that would have won the Spartans the Big Ten regular-season title outright. Instead, MSU finished fifth in the league.
There were no signs of fatigue in MSU's game on Friday, as the Spartans were aggressive offensively and challenged Penn State all over the field. The opening half saw limited Grade-A chances for either team. In the early going, MSU had a nice chance on a restart from 25 yards out, but Ryan Thelen's left-footed offering went wide left. With 10 minutes remaining in the frame, a dangerous restart gave PSU a nice look at the net, but freshman keeper Zach Bennett punched the sure shot over the crossbar and away from the left upper 90.
After the scoreless first half, Henderson put the Spartans on the board first, less than a minute after the intermission. Sean Conerty sent a dangerous ball into the area for Henderson, and he finished off the play after the ball caromed off a defender.
Michigan State refused to take their foot off the gas, continuing to pressure in all areas and got their third goal of the day - tying their highest offensive output of the season - as Jay Chapman was set up by Montague for the Spartans' third of the day, and Chapman `s fourth of the season. The goal came in the 86th minute, all but sealing the victory for MSU.
In the 88th minute, Penn State broke up the shutout with a goal from Minh Vu on just the Nittany Lions third shot on goal of the afternoon.
The game was very physical, with each team being whistled for 19 fouls and two yellow cards were handed to Penn State and one to Michigan State.
Michigan State outshot Penn State 12-7 and held a 3-2 edge in corners.
MSU goalkeeper Zach Bennett improved to 7-3-0 on the season, making two saves. At the other end, Andrew Wolverton, who led the Big Ten in most goalkeeping categories, made one save and allowed three goals to the Spartans on the afternoon.
The Big Ten Tournament championship game between MSU and the Wolverines will take place at Northwestern on Sunday. Kickoff time is 1 p.m. Eastern and the game will air live on Big Ten Network.