The Penn State men’s hockey team is inching closer to a major extension of its season.
The No. 11 Nittany Lions had a big first period and knocked off Michigan State 4-1 Saturday night at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing, Mich.
It gave Penn State (20-8-2, 9-6-2 Big Ten) a sweep of the season series against the struggling Spartans (6-21-3, 2-12-2). It also gave the Nittany Lions their second straight 20-win season and vaulted them past Ohio State, which fell to Michigan on Saturday, into third place in the Big Ten standings.
Nate Sucese scored a pair of goals to lead the way, with one each from Denis Smirnov and Andrew Sturtz. Peyton Jones made 22 saves for the win, allowing only a third-period score from Villiam Haag.
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Penn State outshot Michigan State 35-23 and hasn’t lost to the Spartans in the last two seasons.
Sucese netted the opening goal midway through the first period, tapping the puck into an empty side of the net off a feed from David Goodwin. With his team-leading 23rd assist of the season, Goodwin extended his point streak to 10 straight games, tying Smirnov’s team record.
The Russian freshman then registered his goal with a power-play blast. It gave Smirnov 17 goals on the season and 40 points. The point total ties Casey Bailey’s team record set two years ago.
Sucese again had an easy tap-in during the final minute of the first period, this time set up by Brandon Biro on an odd-man rush. It extended the lead and gave him 13 scores on the season as the teams were skating 4 on 4.
The first period has been especially good for the Nittany Lions, outscoring opponents 47-21.
The Spartans had their lone offensive highlight in the third with Haag’s goal, but the momentum didn’t last long with Sturtz knocking in a rebound 90 seconds later. The sophomore netted his team-leading 19th goal of the season.
Ed Minney made 31 saves in the Michigan State net.
The game was plagued with penalties all night. The teams combined for 19 infractions for 38 minutes. The Spartans did not convert on any of their four power plays while the Nittany Lions were 1 for 7.
Penn State returns to Pegula Ice Arena for its final home games of the season next weekend, hosting Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday.