The roll the Penn State men’s hockey team had been experiencing for more than a month came to a sputtering stop Friday night.
The Spartans silenced the No. 19 Nittany Lions 3-0 at Munn Ice Arena, ending Penn State’s eight-game unbeaten streak and handing the team its first shutout in more than a year.
Mackenzie MacEachern, JT Stenglein and Matt DeBlouw scored for Michigan State (11-12-2, 5-4-2-2 Big Ten), while Jake Hildebrand made 28 saves for his third shutout of the season. Hildebrand and the Spartans were the last team to silence the Nittany Lion offense, on Jan. 17, 2014, in East Lansing.
Penn State (15-8-4, 7-3-1), which entered the game leading the nation at more than 41 shots per game and in the top 10 in goal-scoring, was outshot 34-28. It marked just the fourth time this season an opponent outshot the Nittany Lions, and just the third time they were held to fewer than 30 tries on net.
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It ended a run of four straight wins in net by P.J. Musico, who made 31 saves in his first loss since Jan. 9.
After 30 minutes of scoreless action, the Spartans broke through with a pair of goals in less than three minutes.
MacEachern scored what proved to be the winner, knocking in a backhand rebound after Musico stopped the initial try by Matt Berry. A turnover led to the second score when Erik Autio tried to clear the puck from the Nittany Lion zone, but it bounced off the skate of Thomas Ebbing, bouncing right to Stenglein for a quick strike with 7:08 left in the second.
It marked the fifth time since the start of January Penn State had trailed by at least two goals.
The insurance tally came 4:16 into the third when, not long after another turnover, Berry fed the puck from the corner to DeBlouw for a blast from the circle.
The Nittany Lions had a number of high-quality chances, especially in the third.
Just 90 seconds into the final frame, Eric Scheid blocked a pass at the Lion blue line and took off on a breakaway. With defenseman Rhett Holland just off his hip, Scheid was a little limited in his options and couldn’t slip the puck around Hildebrand, a junior from Butler, north of Pittsburgh.
With just under six minutes left, coincidental minor penalties had the teams skating 4 on 4, so coach Guy Gadowsky chose to pull Musico, giving his team, essentially, a power play.
In a flurry in front of the net, Curtis Loik nearly scored on a rebound when his shot was dancing along the goal line, but Spartan Michael Ferrantino was standing next to the post and cleared the puck away. A little later, Scott Conway ripped a blast from the circle that glanced off Hildebrand’s shoulder and the crossbar before sailing over the glass.
Coupled with Minnesota hammering Michigan 6-2 Friday, the conference standings got even tighter, with the Wolverines, Lions, Gophers and Spartans all within five points of each other.
Penn State and Michigan State complete their season series at 6 p.m. Saturday at Munn Ice Arena. The game will be shown on BTN.