The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team (7-10-1, 2-7-1-1 Big Ten) dropped both games in East Lansing Friday and Saturday night against the Michigan State Spartans (8-7-1, 6-3-1).
In the first matchup, Spartans’ goalie John Lethemon held firm throughout, shutting out Wisconsin en route to a 3–0 win. Saturday was a much closer affair, but Michigan State still found their way on top in a 5–4 overtime victory.
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Lethemon put on an amazing performance Friday night, turning back a total of 41 Badger shots on goal, including a few point-blank opportunities.
Wisconsin forward Alex Turcotte was denied on three chances near the net, and fellow freshman frontliner Cole Caufield rung the post twice but never finished.
On top of that, more missed opportunities from junior forwards Sean Dhooghe and Linus Weissbach meant the defense really didn’t have much to work with.
With 8:11 left on the clock in the first, MSU junior Tommy Miller scored his first goal of the season after putting home a pass from Logan Lambdin. It was the only score of the period and gave Michigan State a 1–0 advantage.
In the second, Spartan freshman Jagger Joshua and junior Brody Stevens found the back of the net to open it up to 3–0.
UW goalkeeper Daniel Lebedeff turned back 20 of 23 shots through two periods, but was pulled in favor of senior Jack Berry. Berry shut out MSU in the third, but it didn’t make much of a difference as the Spartans held their lead.
Wisconsin came out with a little more firepower Saturday night and jumped out to an early 1–0 lead when Ty Pelton-Bryce tucked one home at the 11:00 mark in the first.
Just a minute into the second, Spartan forward Patrick Khodorenko evened it back up. Wisconsin wasn’t done, though, and Caufield scored back-to-back goals within eight minutes of each other to push the lead out to 3–1.
But it was a game of runs, and Michigan State went on a big one through the third period. Mitch Lewandowski scored a goal early in the period before adding another just a few minutes later.
In between Lewandowski’s goals, a short-handed goal from Sam Saliba turned the tables upside-down.
After taking a 4–3 lead, the Spartans played conservatively to try to run out the clock. It gave Wisconsin the ability to put the pressure on, and with just 21 seconds left before the final buzzer, Wyatt Kalynuk sent the puck top-shelf to force overtime.
Extra time didn’t last long and saw MSU work the puck around the offensive zone before Khodorenko went far corner to send Spartan fans home happy with a 5–4 win.
It was a crucial series for a UW squad who faced falling out of the top 20 with losses. Now, the Badgers will have to fight their way back in after a red-hot start to the season had people talking about them as one of the top teams in college hockey.
They’ll have to wait almost a month, but will return home Jan. 10 and 11 for a home series with The Ohio State University. The break should give the Badgers some time to figure out what has gone wrong in their last month of play.