Special teams key as Spartans down Buckeyes

Skating shorthanded has proven no cause for concern for Michigan State.

The Spartans extend their penalty-kill streak to 19 with a 4-1 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes on Friday night in front of a sell-out crowd at Munn Arena.

MSU killed all four Buckeye power plays, and scored on one of its own in the contest. Michigan State has not surrendered a power-play goal since December 6, 2014 against the University of Minnesota.

“Number one up front we’ve got some depth in our numbers,” said Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos. “We can go six and seven guys deep to kill penalties which was a real shortcoming the last couple of years.”

Junior goaltender Jake Hildebrand’s play echoed the sentiment that the goaltender needs to be the best penalty killer with eight of his 33 saves coming at a disadvantage.

“I think he’s seeing the puck real well, tonight when pucks hit him they stuck to him,” said Anastos. “He’s a key for us, without a doubt, our defensive effort is led by him.”

Hildebrand (8-11-2) has been steady all year lowering his goals-against average to 2.48, and improving his save percentage to .914 while starting all 21 games for the Spartans.

OSU outshot Michigan State 34-31 for the game, with five of its 14 second-period shots coming on the power play.

“He’s a rock back there, he gives us a chance to win every game,” said senior forward Brent Darnell. “We have full confidence in him. We’ll go through times where we’re not playing our best and we know he’s going to be back there to make a big save.”

Darnell led the way offensively with a goal and two assists, including the game-winner he fired passed OSU goaltender Christian Frey off a faceoff at 14:08 of the second period.

“That’s what we need out of him every single night,” said Anastos. “Overall play I thought was good and he’s getting rewarded…we need him to continue to contribute”

Matt Berry and Mackenzie MacEachern each contributed a goal and an assist for the Spartans.

"I think we just play real well off each other and feed off each other's energy," said Berry, who returned from a six-game leave Friday night. "We just try to create chances and get pucks to the net...my linemates really helped me out tonight so I give a lot of credit to them."

After a scoreless first period, Michigan State set the tone early in the second when Berry picked up the puck behind the Ohio State goal and tucked a wrap-around between Frey’s skate and the goal post to open the scoring at 1:35.

Darnell added his fifth of the year at 14:08, ultimately giving MSU a two-goal lead heading into the third period.

Ohio State clawed to within one when David Gust deposited a slick pass from Nick Oddo from behind the net to get the Buckeyes on the board at 2:46 of the third.

Michigan State responded just 3:28 later with a power-play goal off the stick of Mackenzie MacEachern after his initial shot hit the goal post to give the Spartans back their two-goal lead.

Ryan Keller would ice the game with his third goal of the season at 19:12 burying a nifty between-the-legs pass from Darnell to cap off the scoring at 4-1.

The win gives Michigan State an 8-11-2 record overall (2-3-2-2). Ohio State falls to 7-12-2 (2-5).

The teams will meet for the fourth and final time of the regular season on Saturday at Munn Arena. MSU has taken two of the first three meetings, outscoring the Buckeyes 7-5.

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