Forward Daniel Burnham was the spark the Penn State (7-4-2, 2-1-1 Big Ten) offense needed in a 2-1 win Sunday afternoon against Michigan State (5-7-1, 1-2-0 Big Ten).
For a team that has struggled to score goals in the past few games, Burnham fueled the Lions’ offense, looking dangerous all game long down the right wing.
“It was his hustle, his fight, his determination, never giving up,” coach Bob Warming said.
The senior has been a leader on the offense this season, averaging 1.83 shots per game, which leads the team and is tied for sixth most in the Big Ten. He registered three shots in his 84 minutes of play, above his average of 55.2 minutes per game.
The forward used his 5-foot-10 frame to create chances early on in the game.
Burnham had a ball played to him in the 10th minute but he could only get a slight touch on it and the ball fell into the arms of Michigan State keeper Zach Bennett.
With the Lions threatening with chance after chance and Michigan State on the back foot, the breakthrough that the Lions were looking for came through Burnham in the 20th minute.
The senior scored his third goal of the season, second most on the team, off a deflection.
Midfielder Julian Cardona was found in the box and took a shot that Bennett went down low to save. The rebound rolled toward the touchline and to Burnham’s feet. He fired it home from a tight angle to give Penn State the momentum-shifting goal that it needed.
“I was in the right spot at the right time and I was lucky to get it in at that tough angle behind the keeper,” Burnham said.
Burnham’s presence was felt on set pieces as well.
Early in the second half, the midfielder raced down the right wing, crossing a ball in that deflected off a Michigan State player to give the Lions a corner. Defender John Gallagher crossed in the ball and Burnham was there to force pressure and the Spartans headed it in for an own goal.
“There was a little bit of confusion on their part and it went off their head wrong,” Burnham said. “It was fortunate for us that we got that.”
After the defense conceded to make it 2-1 early in the second half, the Lions went on the attack looking for the insurance goal and again they looked to Burnham.
With five minutes left in the game, the midfielder was fed in the box and he spun to take the shot. Bennett dived low to his left to save the ball and keep it a one-goal game.
The Lions scored at least two goals for the first time since a 3-0 win over Adelphi five games ago.
Burnham feels that the performance will help the team as the schedule starts to close and they gear up for the Big Ten Tournament, starting with a match against Bucknell on Wednesday.
“We know we can play like this, we know we can score a couple more,” Burnham said. “It builds our confidence going into Bucknell.”