A tough series versus Michigan State halted Penn State's eight game unbeaten streak as the once-ranked Nittany Lions were defeated twice by the Spartans over the weekend. Penn State (15-9-4, 7-4-1-0 Big Ten) was swept for the first time this season as the Nittany Lions fell to 1-2-1 against the Spartans (12-12-2, 6-4-2-2 Big Ten) on the year.
Michigan State shut out the Nittany Lions for the first time this year Friday night by a score of 3-0 and while Penn State was able to battle back Saturday, the Nittany Lions ultimately faltered in a 3-2 loss.
Friday: 3-0 loss vs. Michigan State
Penn State was shut out 3-0 Friday in their first no-goal game since January of last season. Senior PJ Musico backstopped the Nittany Lions with 31 saves in net, but his performance was not helped by Penn State's offense as they were stymied by a stout Michigan State defense.
After a scoreless first that saw the Spartans outshoot Penn State 14-9, Michigan State put up two goals in three minutes to go up 2-0 midway through the game.
Mackenzie MacEachern and JT Stenglein punched in the pair of goals to put the game out of reach for Penn State. Matt Berry's shot rebounded off Musico and MacEachern was there to put home the puck for the 1-0 strike at 10:04 of the second. Then a few minutes later, Penn State turned the puck over in their own zone that led to a chance for Stenglein all alone against Musico and the forward went stick side on the Nittany Lion netminder to double the score 2-0.
A one-timed shot from Matt DeBlouw finished off the game for Michigan State in the third 4:16 into the frame off another Penn State miscue to put the game away for the Spartans 3-0.
Each team had three power play opportunities in the game, but neither squad was able to take advantage of the special teams play. Penn State was also outshot for just the fourth time this season, losing out to the Spartans in the shot count 34-28.
Saturday: 3-2 loss vs. Michigan State
Casey Bailey tallied his 20th goal of the season and the Nittany Lions managed to outshoot the Spartans 42-29 in an overall better played game, but a hat trick from MacEachern stifled Penn State's chances to come away with the series tie.
Connor Varley also notched his second goal of the year in the loss, but Penn State's penalty killing unit could not contain the Spartans power play as the advantage struck twice in the 3-2 Nittany Lion loss.
Despite the Nittany Lions outshooting the Spartans 15-8 in the opening frame, MacEachen broke open the game at 10:02 of the first period, beating starting Penn State goaltender Matt Skoff for the 1-0 strike. The start was Skoff's first since Jan. 23 against Northern Michigan.
Varley put up Penn State's first goal of the weekend in the second period on the power play, firing a rocket from the high slot through traffic to beat Spartan netminder Jake Hildebrand to tie the game 1-1 with 7:31 gone in the middle frame.
However, MacEachern got it back for Michigan State on a 5-on-3 power play six minutes later, taking a rebound from the right post and putting it past Skoff for the 2-1 score with 6:37 to go in the frame.
MacEachern completed his hat trick half way through the third for his 10th goal of the season and his fourth of the weekend.
Bailey gave Penn State some life with Skoff pulled for an extra man with 2:24 left in the game. The forward's shot from between the circles went top shelf on Hildebrand for the Nittany Lions' second strike of the evening, but Penn State ran out of time to finish the comeback and took their second loss of the weekend, 3-2.
Skoff had 26 saves in net for Penn State as the Nittany Lions cashed in on one of their four power play opportunities, while the Spartans went 2-for-7 on the man advantage.
After a weekend where only two goals were scored by the Nittany Lions, one positive point for Penn State is that Casey Bailey is still on a roll after picking up his 20th tally of the season in Saturday's game. The Nittany Lions will certainly need his skills to close out the season and it's a good sign that he hasn't gone cold when the almost the rest of the team was blanked over their last two games.
Also, Penn State will be heading home for their next weekend series against Minnesota, where they have a 10-1-3 record this season in Pegula and they will have the fans on their side for half of their remaining eight games on the year.
It was an overall rough weekend for the Nittany Lions with only scoring twice on a 12-win Michigan State team. Friday, they didn't look like themselves and were outshot for only the fourth time this season. Saturday, they did rebound and play a tighter game, but their 16 penalty minutes during the game was what killed them after allowing two power play goals.
"Friday, we just had a mental lapse," defenseman David Thompson said to reporters. "We just didn't play our game. We knew we were really disappointed with the way we came out and played on Friday."
"I think the second game we got back to our game and responded well after how we played the first night," defensemen Connor Varley said after Saturday's loss. "We played more in their end and generated a lot more offense."
Weekend Standout Players
- F Casey Bailey: 1 goal, 10 shots
- D Connor Varley: 1 goal, 5 shots
- G PJ Musico: 31 saves on 34 shots (Season: .913 SV%, 2.13 GAA)
Penn State will head back to Pegula to face No. 17 Minnesota (16-9-3, 7-2-3 Big Ten) for the first time this season and will finish out their schedule against the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis.
The Penn State women's team (15-13-4, 9-7-2 CHA) also had a tough away weekend, being shut out completely by the No. 1 team in the CHA, Mercyhurst. The Nittany Lions lost 2-0 Friday night and then took a 4-0 defeat on Saturday. Regardless of how their final series of the season goes next weekend against Robert Morris, Penn State will finish the season at or above .500 for the first time in their Division I history.