The Michigan State men’s hockey team could not stop one of the nation’s most potent lines two nights in a row.
Penn State’s top line figured in four scores, including two goals and an assist for leader Casey Bailey, as the Nittany Lions put away the Spartans 5-2 Saturday evening at Pegula Ice Arena.
The other members of the line were also successful, with a goal and two assists for David Goodwin and one of each for Taylor Holstrom.
“These guys have clicked since the beginning of last year,” said goalie Matthew Skoff, who made 28 saves for the win. “It’s fun to watch, and when they’re on the ice it’s something I can enjoy watching what they do at the other end.”
Nate Jensen notched the other score for the Nittany Lions (11-7-3, 5-2-1 Big Ten), who moved back into first place alone in the conference, a point ahead of Michigan.
Villiam Haag and Michael Ferrantino notched first-period goals for Michigan State (7-11-2, 1-3-2-2), who could not beat Skoff the rest of the night.
“I thought he gave the team confidence,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “He looked very much in control.”
After a few sub-par performances the last few weeks, the junior was happy with the way he bounced back Saturday.
“The forwards and the (defensemen) did a lot of good things keeping the shots out of the ‘house,’” Skoff said. “That obviously contributed to my success. All together I think it was everyone pulling the same way. It wasn’t one guy that stood out.”
Jake Hildebrand stopped 35 shots for the Spartans.
“We got beat in every phase of the game tonight,” Michigan State coach Tom Anastos said. “I thought they dominated the game. They were the way better team.”
The Nittany Lions showed off their third jerseys for the first time Saturday.
They also displayed that No. 1 line.
Bailey now leads the nation with 16 goals, and adding his 10 assists he has 26 points to tie for 12th in Division I. Holstrom improved his totals to five goals and 18 assists — he is tied for fourth in the latter — and Goodwin has 10 goals and 12 assists. Holstrom and Goodwin are tied for 21st and 28th, respectively, in total points.
“I thought they could have had a few more,” Gadowsky said of the trio’s eight-point night. “They seem to be clicking. I thought they all worked very hard tonight.”
Bailey stoked the sellout crowd just 1:11 into the game by streaking down the ice on a breakaway to beat Hildebrand. He found success a night after being stuffed when the teams played to a shootout after a 2-2 tie.
“I tried to go low blocker (Friday) night,” Bailey said. “It ended up working tonight.”
Michigan State answered 3:02 later on a power play, when Haag launched a rocket from the high slot to beat a screened Skoff just over his stick-side shoulder.
Just before the first period ended, the Spartans struck again when Travis Walsh launched a blast from the point that Skoff stopped, but the rebound landed right at the skates of an unchecked Ferrantino.
Jensen knocked home a rebound for his first score of the season with a mass of bodies piled up in front of the net with 4:59 left in the second to tie the game at 2-2. A little over two minutes later, Goodwin put the Lions ahead for good by beating Hildebrand from point-blank range, taking a cross-crease feed from Bailey.
“Casey made a great play to me, and I was just kind of burying it,” Goodwin said. “Hildebrand bit pretty hard on Casey and (Bailey) threw it back door, and I had the whole net.”
“We put it into another gear in the second period,” Gadowsky said, “and I think that carried over.”
The No. 1 line got cranked up in the third period with a pair of goals 59 seconds apart in the first 2:32 of the frame.
First, Goodwin sent the puck to Luke Juha at the point, and the defenseman fired a shot that Holstrom redirected. Then, on a 3-on-1 break, Goodwin sent the puck across to Holstrom for a one-timer that was blocked by Hildebrand, but Bailey was left alone with a wide-open net.
“Goodwin was telling me I stole it from him,” Bailey said of the night’s final score. “I just think I’m a little bit hungrier than him in front of the net.”
Following the goal, the crowd began chanting “Hobey Baker!” referencing Holstrom and Bailey both earning nominations for the award.