COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Michigan State hockey team defeated seventh-ranked Ohio State, 3-2, on Saturday in Columbus in the final game of the regular season. With the game tied 1-1 after two periods, the Spartans scored twice in a span of 7:36 to grab the lead for good. Patrick Khodorenko (power-play), Mitchell Lewandowski and Brody Stevens scored for the Spartans (12-17-5, 8-12-4-2), who will meet Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament next weekend.
"We thought last night we were just okay, and it's no fun to play just okay," MSU head coach Danton Cole said. "I thought tonight they really played the way we have to play. They were gutsy, they worked hard; made the ice hard for Ohio State all over and put some more pucks on net and good things happened. I'm really happy for the guys and it's a good bounce going into the playoffs getting that win."
The Buckeyes took a pair of penalties early in the second period and the Spartans took advantage on the latter as Khodorenko netted his ninth power-play goal of the season. Dennis Cesana and Cody Milan got the puck to Khodorenko between the circles and he snapped it low past goaltender Sean Romeo just 11 seconds into the man-advantage.
The goal was Khodorenko's team-leading 18th.
Ohio State tied the game on a power-play goal of its own just past the midway point of the second period as Wyatt Ege beat John Lethemon with a shot into the top corner of the net at the 10:37 mark.
The Spartans reclaimed the lead 1:02 into the third period courtesy of Lewandowski. Jerad Rosburg got the puck to Cesana at the right point, who snapped a shot toward the net. Romeo kicked the puck out and Lewandowski immediately gathered it and one-timed it into the net from near the bottom of the left circle to make it 2-1.
Lethemon made a big stop on Tanner Laczynski on the doorstep with just over 12 minutes to go in the third, and less than a minute later, the Spartans were able to extend their lead. Brennan Sanford brought the puck into the OSU zone along the left side, pulled up and hit Stevens in the middle. Stevens toe-dragged the puck around a defender and then snapped the puck low past Romeo with 11:38 to play in the period.
"Those were big goals," Cole said. "Both of them were things we've talked about doing – putting pucks on net and getting a rebound. We had some rebounds earlier, they just weren't going on our sticks. Fortunately, that one went on Lewy's stick."
Ohio State pulled Romeo for the extra attacker in the closing minutes and made it a one-goal game with 2:47 to play as Laczynski scored to make it 3-2.
OSU kept the pressure on the Spartans to close the game but Lethemon and the Spartans held on for the one-goal win.
Lethemon finished with 32 saves.
Both teams went 1-for-4 on the power play.
Michigan State will continue its season next weekend in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. The seventh-seeded Spartans will travel to second-seeded Notre Dame to meet in a best-of-three series beginning on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Compton Family Ice Arena.
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