At least when the Notre Dame’s hockey team is wearing its road blues this season, the Fighting Irish aren’t singing them.
A meager 3-10-1 at their home Lefty Smith Rink during this crazy COVID-19 season, coach Jeff Jackson’s team improved to 8-2-1 on the road Friday night as senior goalie Dylan St. Cyr made 27 saves for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career with a 2-0 Big Ten Conference victory over Michigan State at the Clarence “Biggie” Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing.
The Irish, 0-3-1 coming into the game, got goals from freshman left wing Landon Slaggert at 4:31 of the second period and an insurance goal by his linemate, junior right wing Alex Steeves, at 11:24 of the third period against MSU freshman goalie Pierce Charleson, who stopped 31 other Irish shots after he got the starting nod from MSU coach Danton Cole for the first time this season.
“I thought we played a patience game — they’re a tough team to play against,” said Jackson, a former backup goalie at Michigan State in the 1970s for the late Ron Mason. “They are good defensively and don’t give you a lot. We were patient, waited for our chances and scored a couple of timely goals. And Dylan played well in goal and gave us a chance to win the game.”
The 5-foot-9 St. Cyr, who hails from Northville, Michigan, an hour’s drive from East Lansing, lowered his goals-against average to 2.52 and raised his saves percentage to .915 with the shutout. It was his 11th start in the last 12 Irish games. On Dec. 12 at the Lefty Smith Rink, St. Cyr shut out Ohio State 3-0 with 20 saves.
Steeves’ goal, his team-leading 14th of the season, came at 11:24, almost two minutes after an apparent tying goal by MSU’s Nicolas Muller at 9:26 was disallowed when officials determined the Spartans were offsides bringing the puck into the offensive zone.
Jackson asked for a video review after Notre Dame’s director of hockey operations Nick Siegiej thought he had video evidence in the press box that the Spartans entered the zone before the puck. After a review, the officials concurred.
“Jack (Ceglarski, the team’s volunteer assistant coach) mentioned it on the bench and radioed up to Nick to take a look at it,” Jackson said, “and he (Siegiej) said challenge it.”
Landon Slaggert also had an assist on Steeves’ goal for a two-point night. Irish senior defenseman Matt Hellickson, playing in his 142nd consecutive game since arriving on campus, assisted on both goals.
The Irish (11-12-2 overall, 9-10-2 Big Ten) and Spartans (8-14-2 overall, 5-13-1 Big Ten) concluded their series Saturday. Notre Dame then heads back to the Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena for an expected March 5-6 series with Penn State, which has not played since an overtime loss to the Irish in University Park on Jan. 29 because of COVID-19 issues. The Irish then will host the Big Ten Tournament March 14-16.
After the Irish outshot the Spartans 8-6 in the scoreless first period, the shots picked up in the second period as each team tested the other’s goalie 15 times. But Notre Dame got the only goal at 4:31 when Slaggert beat Charleson from close in. Hellickson and Nick Leivermann got assists on the goal that put the Irish up 1-0 after two periods.
The Irish got an early power-play opportunity in the third period when Tommy Apap went off for hooking at 1:12 but couldn’t score. St. Cyr then made saves on Apap and Mitchell Lewandowski before Notre Dame’s Max Ellis was called for holding at 4:11. St. Cyr stopped two Josh Nodler shots and then denied Nicolas Muller at 5:44 during the penalty kill.
After Muller’s apparent tying goal at 9:26 was waved off, the Irish didn’t waste much time getting the insurance goal they needed when Landon Slaggert fed Steeves in the left circle and the junior right wing gave the Irish the breathing room they needed at 11:24.
Notre Dame 0 1 1—2
Michigan State 0 0 0—0
First Period—Scoring: None. Penalties: Notre Dame 0-0, Michigan State 0-0.
Second Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Landon Slaggert 6 (Matt Hellickson, Nick Leivermann) EV 4:31. Penalties (total): Notre Dame 1-2 (1-2), Michigan State 1-2 (1-2).
Third Period—2. Notre Dame, Alex Steeves 14 (Landon Slaggert, Matt Hellickson) EV 11:24. Penalties (total): Notre Dame 1-2 (2-4), Michigan State 1-2 (2-4).
Shots on goal—Notre Dame 33 (8-15-10), Michigan State 27 (6-15-6). Goalie saves—Notre Dame, Dylan St. Cyr 27 (6-15-6), Michigan State, Pierce Charleson 31 (8-14-9). Power-play opportunities—Notre Dame 0 of 2, Michigan State 0 of 2. Faceoffs won—Notre Dame 22 (5-11-6), Michigan State 24 (5-10-9). Blocked shots—Notre Dame 6 (3-1-2), Michigan State 7 (2-1-4).
Records—Notre Dame 11-12-2 (9-10-2 Big Ten), Michigan State 7-14-2 (5-13-1 Big Ten).