Despite an 11-game losing streak and frigid East Lansing temperatures, the green and white faithful packed Munn Ice Arena with hopes tonight would be the night Michigan State ends its horrid losing streak.
Trailing 2-0 in the second, Michigan State received its second power play of the night when Notre Dame senior defenseman Spencer Stastney tripped up sophomore forward Kristoff Papp in the corner. For the first time in the night, it looked like MSU had some offensive life and threatened to get on the board.
Junior forward Josh Nodler’s one-timer just feet away from the net was miraculously stopped by Notre Dame graduate student goaltender Matthew Galajda and the rebound created a chaotic scrum in the crease. The referees blew the whistle, perhaps a tad early, and freshman forward Jesse Tucker took exception, and fired a puck on net after the whistle. The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty negated the Spartan power play and the teams skated four-on-four.
Just over a minute later, sophomore defenseman Powell Conner and senior defenseman Christian Krygier got lost in their positioning, and sophomore defenseman Chase Blackmun walked toward the net. He beat senior goaltender Drew DeRidder on the blocker side with his wrist shot and the Fighting Irish took a commanding 3-0 lead.
It was the beginning of the end of a forgetful night for Michigan State, who fell 4-2 to No. 11 Notre Dame and extended its losing streak to a maddening 12 games. The stat sheet suggests a fairly even match, but Notre Dame held a steady control for 60 minutes and the Spartans struggled to sustain any found momentum.
Notre Dame’s fourth line got the scoring going early with a pair of goals in a quick first period that featured few whistles.
Graduate forward Jack Adams sprung in on an angled breakaway and DeRidder made a strong pad save. Just moments later Adams got in on another rush as freshman defenseman David Gucciardi fell out of position. Adams on a two-on-one played the puck across to his fellow winger, freshman Justin Janicke, who guided an easy tap-in to break the scoring.
The bottom line struck again as the period neared in end. The Irish forced a turnover and Adams cleaned up the garbage in-front of the net for Janicke and Adams' second point of the period.
Michigan State finally showed some offensive life, cutting Notre Dame’s three-goal lead to two near the midpoint of the second. A strong forecheck from Tucker, the team leader in points and assists, won MSU the puck behind Galajda and he flipped it out front. Sophomore forward Jeremy Davidson was waiting unmarked and beat Galajda high to put the Spartans on the board.
Munn Ice Arena was energized for the first time, but it didn't faze the visiting the Irish, who took it right back to MSU. A shot through traffic from the point by Stastney floated into the net to give Notre Dame a 4-1 lead.
Still with over 26 minutes to play, Stastney’s goal felt like the nail in the coffin for Michigan State, who moved to 0-12-0 on the season when surrendering four or more goals. MSU continued its mostly lethargic skating into the third period and couldn’t get a bounce to fool Galajda.
The Spartans had a chance to make things interesting with nine minutes to play on an Adams interference penalty. Michigan State’s puck movement and zone time was encouraging, but still not good enough to get break the stout Notre Dame penalty kill. Galajda swallowed shots left and right making 27 saves on the night.
Junior forward Erik Middendorf netted a late third period goal with seven seconds to play on a one-timer from a tough angle.
DeRidder finished the match with 27 stops. He kept MSU competitive by shutting down sophomore forward Ryder Rolston on a breakaway following a lazy turnover from senior defenseman Dennis Cesana in the third.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Minnesota staged a dramatic comeback in Happy Valley to complete a sweep of Penn State. The two teams will meet in the regular season finale next weekend in East Lansing and will jockey for the final seeds in the conference.
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