EAST LANSING, Mich. –The Michigan State hockey team opened the 2018-19 season with a 4-2 victory over Northern Michigan at Munn Ice Arena on Friday night. Mitchell Lewandowski scored the game-winning goal with 1:14 to play in the third period and tallied an assist to help lead the Spartans.
"We talked to the guys before about having a good excitement level and a good compete level," MSU head coach Danton Cole said. "Early in the season, that's mandatory. I liked the atmosphere before the game, and it should be that way before the first game. Everyone was jumping."
Goaltender John Lethemon got the start for the Spartans and had 21 saves, including nine in the third period.
Northern Michigan was able to tie it up just over three minutes later when a shot by Tony Bretzman bounced off the back boards, back in front of the net and then in.
The Spartans reclaimed the lead at the 5:28 mark of the second courtesy of Brennan Sanford.
Logan Lambdin chipped the puck ahead from the boards in the MSU zone where Sanford picked it up and took off down the left side. Sanford was given room and he drove to the net, cutting across the crease and backhanding the puck past NMU goaltender Atte Tolvanen.
Northern Michigan made it 2-2 at the 9:41 mark of the second when Darien Craighead tipped in a shot from the left circle past Lethemon.
The Spartans outshot Northern Michigan 45-23, including by a 16-9 mark in the third period. Both teams had chances in the third, but MSU finally broke the stalemate with 1:14 to go.
Tommy Miller took control of the puck in the NMU zone and backhanded a pass from near the bottom of the left circle. The puck bounced off Lewandowski, who was driving to the net, and past Tolvanen.
Taro Hirose, who also assisted on the go-ahead goal, topped the win off with an empty net goal with two seconds remaining.
"The crowd was outstanding. They did a great job," Cole said. "We want this building to be sold out and I think a lot of that is on us. We have to make sure we play the way that people want to see hockey played and make it exciting and win some games like this. It's great playing in front of a crowd."
MSU went 1-for-4 on the power play and skated off all four of Northern Michigan's chances on the man advantage, including 19 seconds of a 5-on-3 in the second period.
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