Big Ten wins are important for Penn State’s NCAA tournament chances. Especially when the come at home.
Penn State took care of business Saturday night at Pegula Ice Arena, beating back visiting Michigan State 5-2 in front of 6,163 to take four of six points from the visiting Spartans in a weekend set to move back into first place in the Big Ten, by a point, over Michigan.
"I know we were down early but I thought we played well," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "I thought we put it in another gear in the second period and that carried over."
"We got beat in every phase of the game tonight," Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos said. "I'll give their team credit. They put up a lot of fight. But we didn't play well."
The Lions (11-7-3, 5-2-1-0) started quickly with a Casey Bailey breakaway snipe 1:11 into the contest, and it was ultimately the junior forward who put the visitors away by blowing away Spartans netminder Jake Hildebrand (35 saves) to finish a 3-on-1 and give the Lions a 5-2 lead early in the third period.
The Spartans led just once, 2-1 at the end of one, but it lasted for no more than five minutes of the first period, as defenseman Nate Jensen scored an equalizer before David Goodwin scored the de-facto game-winner with under four minutes to play in the second.
Bailey’s markers were his 15th and 16th of the year, a total that stands as a team-best. Taylor Holstrom also scored to reach the final margin of victory.
"100 percent," Bailey said when asked about a team effort. "It’s definitely not me doing all the work. Without these two guys battling, without the whole team, it’s a team credit."
Matthew Skoff won for the seventh time this season, turning aside 28 shots. Penn State lost a shootout against the Spartans Friday night at Pegula, but still mustered a point after a late Goodwin goal forced overtime.
"I’m going to steal my thoughts right from [Penn State forward] Eric Scheid, who said he [Skoff] showed a lot of mental toughness to bounce back," Gadowsky said. "He played very, very well."
Penn State returns to the ice next Friday and Saturday at Pegula Ice Arena opposite Northern Michigan. Game times are slated for 7 p.m. Friday and 4:30 p.m. Saturday.