It was a special night at Compton Family Ice Arena as the #3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (22-8-2, 16-5-1-1) took the ice for the final regular season series of the season against the Michigan State Spartans (11-19-2, 5-15-2-1). At second intermission, the 2007-08 Fight Irish hockey team was honored. The team was the school’s first to make the Frozen Four, an honor they accomplished by defense Michigan State in a regional final.
While it might not seem like it on paper, the series was a big one for the Irish, who didn’t want to go into next month’s Big Ten hockey tournament continuing their downward trend that we saw last series against the Michigan Wolverines. Head coach Jeff Jackson’s team came into the series against the Spartans not having scored more than twice in one game since February 2nd.
Michigan State was all over the Irish throughout the first period but Cale Morris, who came into the series leading the nation in wins and save percentage, wouldn’t allow Michigan State to take any early lead. Already having out-shot the Irish 11-6, it looked like the Spartans would jump out in front when a shot by Brennan Sanford on a two on one was narrowly stopped by Morris. The Irish goaltender would finish the first period stopping all 12 shots he faced.
From the center of the zone, forward Mike O’Leary’s wrister found the upper part of the net, blocker side, to give the Irish a 1-0 with 4:28 to go in the opening period. The sophomore from Halifax, NS missed last week’s series against Michigan with an illness. Getting out to the early lead was a nice boost of confidence for the Irish, as they were 18-1-2 when scoring first going into Friday’s game.
The 2nd period is underway!— Notre Dame Hockey (@NDHockey) February 24, 2018
Here's a great look at O'Leary's 1st period tally pic.twitter.com/Wini6h2RRX
On the faceoff after the goal, Bobby Nardella nearly scored again, tipping a pass just wide of the net. With just over 33 seconds left in the first period intermission, freshman defenseman Matt Hellickson was called for a cross-check on Taro Hirose. For the first time of the evening, the Irish brought on their penalty kill, which at 88.6% was ranked third in the nation coming into the contest.
Coming into the series, the Spartans were 0 for 2 against the Irish on the man advantage this season. Things would get worse for them. On the Michigan State power-play, a cross-ice feed was picked up by Irish captain Jack Evans who scored a short-handed goal on a breakaway to make it 2-0 just 37 seconds into the second period. The goal was his second shorty of the season.
Evans w/ the shorthanded breakaway for his 10th goal of the season! pic.twitter.com/gBx5kPPjKS— Notre Dame Hockey (@NDHockey) February 24, 2018
A lot of time was spent in the Spartan zone early in the second period. After finally getting the puck out of their end, Michigan State defenseman Zach Osburn’s shot went through traffic, glove-side just inside the right post to put the Spartans on the board with 14:08 to go in the second. The Spartans may have felt confident about getting back in the game, but it wouldn’t last long.
Less than a minute later, Parkland, FL native Andrew Peeke from the top of the circle beat Michigan State goalie John Lethemon stick-side to give the Irish a 3-1 lead. The goal was just Notre Dame’s fourth shot of the game. Just 16 seconds later, Cam Morrison created a turnover in the Notre Dame offensive zone and lofted a rebound over the right shoulder of Lethemon to put the Irish up 4-1. After the goal, the Spartans pulled Lethemon and put in senior goaltender Ed Minney.
With 9:31 left in the second period, Morrison was clipped by a stick under his chin and Mitchell Lewandowski was sent to the penalty box for high-sticking. On the man advantage, Joe Wegwerth found the back of the net thanks to a rebound after a Bobby Nardella shot to give the Irish a 5-1 lead with 8:38 to go in the second. The Irish weren’t done yet. Morrison went on a breakaway from the right circle and launched a wrister inside the left post to give the Irish the fifth goal of the period and a commanding 6-1 lead.
Less than two minutes into the third period, the Irish went back on the man advantage thanks to a hooking call on Michigan State’s Logan Lambdin. On the Michigan State penalty kill, a simple shot from the left circle by Sanford went through the legs of Morris to make it 6-2. The Irish failed to score on the remainder of their power-play.
While it wouldn’t have any impact on the outcome, the Irish got away with one in the third period. Depsite Notre Dame also having six men on the ice, Michigan State was called for too many men and Lewandowski served the penalty. Again, the Irish let the Spartans get better scoring chances on their own power-play, and the game remained 6-2.
Osburn fired the puck through a ton of traffic to score his second goal of the night and bring the Spartans within 3 midway through the third period. Lewandowski and Evans were both sent to the box at 12:08 into the third, but neither team would score on the 4 on 4. The Spartans never gave up, continuing to create scoring chances for the rest of the period, but Morris wasn’t let anything past him.
The Irish failed to convert the extra point and 6-3 was your final. No word on if Notre Dame got a megaphone for the win, which ended a season-high three game losing streak. It was a boost of confidence that was much needed for the Irish. They’ll look to close out the regular season by sweeping the Spartans on Saturday.
ND - Mike O’Leary (3) at 15:32 of the 1st with assists from Bobby Nardella (16) and Jack Jenkins (7)
ND - Jake Evans (10) short-handed at 00:33 of the 2nd
MSU - Zach Osburn (3) at of the 2nd at 05:52 of the 2nd from Jake Smith (3) and Gianluca Esteves (2)
ND - Andrew Peeke (4) at 6:54 of the 2nd Cal Burke (9) Andrew Oglevie (18)
ND - Cam Morrison (6) at 7:10 of the 2nd Jake Evans (25)
ND - Joe Wegwerth (5) on the PP at 11:22 of the 2nd from Andrew Oglevie (19) and Bobby Nardella (16)
ND - Cam Morrison (7) at of the 2nd at 15:47 of the 2nd
MSU - Brennan Sanford (5) short-handed at 2:30 of the 3rd from Carson Gatt (14) and Tommy Miller (10)
MSU - Zach Osburn (4) at 9:44 of the 3rd from Butrus Ghafari (1) and David Keefer (6)
ND - Cale Morris stopped 35 of 38 shots, improves to 22-6-1.
MSU - John Lethemon stopped 13 of 17 shots, falls to 11-17-2.
MSU - Ed Minney stopped 14 of 16 shots.
ND - Matt Hellickson, 2 for cross-checking at 19:27 in the 1st
MSU - Mitchell Lewandowski, 2 for high-sticking at 10:29 in the 2nd
MSU - Logan Lambdin, 2 for hooking at 01:48 in the 3rd
MSU - Team Penalty, 2 for too many men on the ice at 4:57 in the 3rd
MSU - Mitchell Lewandowski, 2 for embellishment at 12:08 in the 3rd
ND - Jake Evans, 2 for interference at 12:08 in the 3rd
ND - Dawson Cook - 2 for elbowing at 18:46 in the 3rd
- Cam Morrison
- Jake Evans
- Andrew Peeke
Notre Dame and Michigan State will meet again Saturday at Compton Family Ice Arena, this time at 7:05 p.m. EST, for the final regular season game of the 2017-18 season.