Hockey, like many sports, is a game that can be considered a “game of inches.”
As MSU hockey (5-13-3 overall, 4-10-1-0 CCHA) senior forward Chris Forfar put it, an inch in one direction can make the game work in your favor, but it could just as easily work that way for the other team.
For the Spartans on Friday night, the inches were on Notre Dame’s side, as the Fighting Irish(15-5-0 overall, 11-1-0-0 CCHA) defeated MSU, 1-0, and handed MSU its second consecutive shutout.
“We’re disappointed with the result, and yet I thought we had a real good effort tonight,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “I thought our effort probably didn’t get rewarded as much as it could have. (Notre Dame) is obviously a real good team. I thought our guys competed real hard, the struggles offensively kind of continued, but I thought we just kept at it.”
Though MSU hasn’t scored a goal in more than 164 minutes, the junior forward and captain Greg Wolfe said the team can build confidence from MSU’s offensive output on Friday.
The Spartans had 30 shots throughout three periods, and Notre Dame had 33.
“Pucks were laying there, there was a lot of rebounds,” Wolfe said. “I felt like overall, guys were pretty hungry. Guys were going to the net all night — guys weren’t backing down. They were getting right in Notre Dame’s d’s faces, right on top of the goalie, taking a few whacks, battling in front of the net.”
MSU met an early obstacle when sophomore forward Brent Darnell was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct after hitting from behind in the first period, disallowing him to play the rest of the game. The hit led to a scuffle between him and Notre Dame’s Nick Larson, and Larson was given a two-minute roughing after the whistle call.
For a team that has been struggling to find effective line combinations, forcing to take Darnell out of the lineup just made line matchups more difficult.
“It takes you out of rhythm, for sure,” Anastos said. “I don’t dwell because it’s there, it exists. The way I look at it and challenge the players is it gives some other players an opportunity and gives them the chance to step up.”
Freshman forward David Bondra also left the game early after an upper body injury.
The only goal of the game came in the second period. Notre Dame’s Robbie Russo netted the power play goal after receiving the puck at the blue line from teammate T.J. Tynan, controlling it and sending a wrister to the back of the net.
“I keep saying this, but we can play with these good teams,” Forfar said. “We did it versus Western (1-1 tie in the Great Lakes Invitational), then Notre Dame, the no. 2-ranked team in the country. They’re good, and we know that and we’re right there with them.”