SOUTH BEND, Ind. – With their season on the line, Michigan State hockey needed to come out on top or risk being sent home for the season. The Spartans got the job done, defeating No. 20 Notre Dame in a thrilling 4-2 stand.
It was another gritty, tight race between the opponents, competing up until the final buzzer.
The Spartans got off to a rough start when Notre Dame jumped out to a 1-0 lead 4:55 into the game off a power play when freshman forward Daniel Russell sat for interference. Junior forward Landon Slaggert launched the puck to sophomore forward Justin Janicke who caught MSU’s defenseman and graduate student goaltender Dylan St. Cyr off guard with a shot from the left side.
But the Spartans had an answer about seven minutes later when senior forward Nico Müller tied it 1-1 at 11:27 with a beautiful shot down the middle of the ice off a rebound by senior forward Erik Middendorf.
The Irish got their second power play opportunity of the night when senior forward Jagger Joshua was whistled for interference ahead of the first intermission. The home team got four shots off during the two-minute infraction, but the Spartan penalty kill unit and St. Cyr kept the puck out of the net.
Notre Dame was productive on offense in the second period, putting up 11 shots to MSU’s four with 9:01 remaining. Despite the shot deficit, the Spartans pulled ahead 2-1 with 8:58 left in frame two when junior forward Jeremy Davidson notched his second goal of the weekend. Müller added to his point total for the night, setting up the shot for Davidson when he passed to his left before falling onto the ice.
By the end of the period, the Irish outshot MSU 25-15, but the Spartans maintained their lead.
Notre Dame earned its second power play chance of the night when Müller landed himself in the penalty box for hooking at the 3:44 mark of the third. However, the Spartan penalty kill was successful again, putting up three saves and two blocks.
Freshman forward Tiernan Shoudy was an asset to the team all weekend, putting up a combined seven shots and one assist in the first two games. Shoudy was finally rewarded with his own goal at 6:42 of the final period.
At 15:51, graduate student defenseman Michael Underwood was caught for interference, giving Notre Dame another chance on the man-advantage. The Irish were able to convert, thanks to sophomore forward Hunter Strand who made it a one-goal game with 3:23 left to play.
Notre Dame pulled senior goaltender Ryan Bischel with less than two minutes to go, as a last-ditch effort. Müller picked up his second goal of the night, an empty-netter to ice the game.
MSU wins the best of three series and advances to the semifinals round to face Minnesota at 3M Arena at Mariucci next Saturday, March 11.
This is the first time Michigan State has advanced in the tournament since the conference was formed in 2013-14. It’s also the first time the Spartans have reached the semifinals since they were the No. 2 seed in 2015.
The Spartans also improve to 18-17-2 overall and 10-12-2 in Big Ten play.
They will need a win next week if they want any shot at making the 16-team NCAA tournament and making the Big Ten championship game on March 18.