After a hard fought game that resulted in a 1-1 tie and the Spartans unable to pick up the extra point in the shootout the night before, the skaters ran it back against No. 3 Notre Dame Saturday night looking for the same compete level, but a different result.
Scoring twice within the last six minutes of the game, the Spartans (6-5-1) used a late third period rally to put down the Fighting Irish (8-2-2) and head into Thanksgiving on a high note. The team was led by captain Sam Saliba, who collected two goals, including the game winner, and Logan Lambdin, who was +3 and scored the game-tying goal.
“All weekend, I thought we played real well,” Head Coach Danton Cole said. “ ... I love the way the guys got better from last night ... I thought it was a lot of fun and the guys deserved it.”
The green and white didn’t get the start they were hoping for. Just 1:27 into the game, sophomore defenseman Christian Krygier went to the box after getting called for an interference penalty. Under a minute into the ensuing Notre Dame power play, the Fighting Irish capitalized off of a failed clear attempt by Brody Stevens.
Stevens tried to wrap the puck around the boards, but it was intercepted by Colin Theisen, who immediately fed a pass to Mike O’Leary in front. O’Leary patiently maneuvered around senior goaltender John Lethemon to find the back of the net and put Notre Dame up 1-0. The Spartans would get their first shot on the power play with 5:13 remaining in the first but were unable to use scoring opportunities and convert.
Eight minutes into the second period, things got chippy. Sophomore defensemen Cole Krygier shoved an opposing Notre Dame player after the whistle, resulting in a scrum in front of the net. Both teams would send a player to the penalty box for roughing, and nothing came of the 4-on-4 that followed.
With 6:43 to go in the second, Saliba gave the Spartans the wake-up call they desperately needed. Freshman center Josh Nodler tied up his man on an offensive zone faceoff, prompting Saliba to come in to grab the puck and backhand one past the goaltender to tie things up 1-1.
On a power play that carried over from the second period, Notre Dame would regain the lead just 18 seconds into the third. After winning the opening faceoff, the Fighting Irish hurried into the offensive zone to set things up. The puck eventually found its way to Nick Leivermann, who rifled a shot from the point to put Notre Dame up 2-1.
Lambdin would bring the crowd back to life on Star Wars night at Munn Ice Arena later on in the third. With 6:12 to go in the game, he carried the puck up the right side of the ice and ripped a shot from the right faceoff circle to tie the game back up at 2-2. That goal gave the Spartans the momentum they needed, and it all came full circle with 1:10 to go in the game. Camped out in front of the net, Saliba tipped in a shot from senior defenseman Jerad Rosburg in for his second goal of the game and the one that would ultimately put down the Fighting Irish 3-2.
“I just try to play the game as I see it every night,” Saliba said. “I try to make all the right plays, do the right things. It’s funny how the game of hockey works, sometimes it just seems like the puck is bouncing your way and this weekend it was for me.”
The Spartans will continue Big Ten play after Thanksgiving, when they travel to Columbus, Ohio for a weekend series against Ohio State. Game one is set for Nov. 30 with puck drop at 5 p.m.