Stastney’s two goals help No. 8 Notre Dame hockey team rally past Spartans 3-2

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent
Notre Dame's Spencer Stastney (24) during the Notre Dame vs. RIT NCAA hockey game Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend. Stastney scored two goals in a 3-2 comeback win over Michigan State Friday night.

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame hockey coach Jeff Jackson always is a little uneasy when his team is playing during first-semester finals week.

The way his No. 8 Fighting Irish started their Big Ten Hockey Conference game Friday night in the Compton Family Ice Arena against Michigan State showed he had reason to be concerned.

► More:Hockey: All you need to know about Notre Dame's weekend series vs. Michigan State

► Polls:College hockey polls: Notre Dame holds at No. 8

But led by senior defensemen Spencer Stastney and Nick Leivermann, the Irish overcame a two-goal deficit to the Spartans in the first 1:51 of the game. Stastney scored his first two goals of the season in the second period, and then Leivermann’s fifth of the season at 8:14 of the third period was the game-winner in a 3-2 victory before 4,046 fans watching at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena.

“During finals, you’re always worried where their heads are at,” Jackson said. “We weren’t sharp to start. Michigan State was on top of its game, and we weren’t ready. Fortunately, we clawed back in and found a way to win.”

It was the second straight victory for the Irish (12-4-0 overall, 6-3-0 for third place in the Big Ten with 16 points) and their eighth in the last nine games since being swept Oct. 29-30 at Minnesota in the Big Ten season-opening series. The victory moved the Irish into solo third place in the Big Ten behind Michigan (23 points), a 5-2 winner at Ohio State, and idle Minnesota (19 points).

“In today’s game, if your defensemen aren’t part of the offense, you don’t score,” Jackson said. “Michigan State is really good at that, too. You have to have defensemen who know how to jump and be engaged offensively.”

And Notre Dame certainly has that in Stastney and Leivermann. 

Graduate goalie Matthew Galajda allowed goals on the first two shots taken by coach Danton Cole’s Spartans (9-7-1 overall, 4-5-0 for fifth place in the Big Ten with 12 points).  Freshman Tanner Kelly’s first collegiate goal at 1:04 of the first period and senior defenseman Dennis Cesana’s fifth of the season 47 seconds later gave Michigan State a 2-0 lead.

But Galajda, who earned All-America honors at Cornell before transferring to Notre Dame, settled down and stopped the next 22 shots on goal, three fewer than his fellow goalie from Aurora, Ontario, MSU sophomore Pierce Charleson, stopped.

The teams conclude their series Saturday night at 7. Fans attending are encouraged to bring stuffed animals to toss on the ice following the game to aid the holiday efforts of the Saint Joseph Health System.

The Spartans came out flying and kept the Irish bottled in their own zone for much of the first period. They outshot Notre Dame 15-8 in the first 20 minutes with the help of two power plays, which the Irish managed to kill off, including a 5-on-3 MSU advantage of 24 seconds.

“We’ve been struggling at home coming out at the start,” Stastney said. “We’ve been trying to fix that. They had a nice push and scored a couple of goals. We didn’t get overwhelmed. We kept going.”

The Irish found their legs early in the second period during which they had a 10-4 edge in shots. Stastney’s first goal at 7:57 came after some nifty passing. Freshman center Hunter Strand sent Jesse Lansdell in with a nice pass. Lansdell carried down the right wing and then found Stastney breaking toward the goal. The Irish defenseman lifted the puck over Charleson’s right shoulder to cut the Spartans’ lead in half.

Then MSU defenseman Christian Krygier was banished from the game at 9:28 when he was called for a five-minute major for slew footing (skate-on-skate) Notre Dame’s Jack Adams, who was slow to get back up to the ice. Notre Dame was whistled for a penalty – Ryder Rolston for hooking – moments later. 

But after Rolston returned from the penalty box to give the Irish their third power-play opportunity of the night, Stastney’s wrister from the mid-boards beat Charleson, who was distracted by Lansdell. Adams and Chase Blackmun received assists on the goal at 12:35 which increased Notre Dame’s second-period goal output to 23-7 over the opposition this season.

The winning goal came after senior Cam Burke, who was 10-3 in faceoffs as Notre Dame had a 25-24 edge, got a draw back to Leivermann, who skated through the circle and across the goal line. As Leivermann neared Charleson, he fired a shot off the MSU goalie’s back and the puck went into the net at 8:14.

Shavings

After the National Anthem and before the opening faceoff, there was a moment of silence for retired Notre Dame hockey trainer John Whitmer, who passed away Sunday at 77. Whitmer was trainer for teams coached by Lefty Smith, Ric Schafer and Dave Poulin. … Senior center Jake Pivonka skated several shifts in his return from Achilles tendon surgery in August. … Notre Dame and Boston College will make up their Nov. 26 game postponed by COVID-19 protocols within the BC program on Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. in Compton. … Stastney and center Graham Slaggert are among the 20 candidates for the 2021-22 Senior CLASS Award that focuses on the total student-athlete in the four areas of community, classroom, character and competition. Past Jackson-coached winners of the award were goaltender David Brown (2007) and center Jake Evans (2018).

NOTRE DAME 3, MICHIGAN STATE 2

At Lefty Smith Rink in Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend

Michigan State | 2 | 0 | 0—2 

Notre Dame  | 0 | 2 | 1—3  

First Period—Scoring: 1. Michigan State, Tanner Kelly 1 (Nicolas Muller, Jagger Joshua) EV 1:04. 2. Michigan State, Dennis Cesana (Adam Goodsir, Kristof Papp) EV 1:51. Penalties: Michigan State 0-0, Notre Dame 2-4.

Second Period—Scoring: 3. Notre Dame, Spencer Stastney 1 (Jesse Lansdell, Hunter Strand) EV 7:57. 4. Notre Dame, Spencer Stastney 2 (Jack Adams, Chase Blackmun) PP 12:35. Penalties (total): Michigan State 3-17 (3-17), Notre Dame 1-2 (3-6).

Third Period—Scoring: 5. Notre Dame, Nick Leivermann 5 (Cam Burke) EV 8:14. Penalties (total): Michigan State 1-2 (4-19), Notre Dame 1-2 (4-8).

Shots on goal: Michigan State 24 (15-4-5), Notre Dame 28 (8-10-10). Goalie saves: Michigan State, Pierce Charleson 25 (8-8-9), Notre Dame, Matthew Galajda 22 (13-4-5). Power-play opportunities: Michigan State 0 of 3, Notre Dame 1 of 4. Faceoffs won: Michigan State 24 (8-10-6), Notre Dame 25 (7-7-11). Blocked shots: Michigan State 11 (1-9-1), Notre Dame 6 (3-3-5).

Referees: Barry Pochmara and Brett Sheva. Linesmen: Nicholas Bet and Christopher Libett. Attendance: 4,046 (5,022).

 Records: Michigan State 9-7-1 (4-5-0 Big Ten for 12 points), Notre Dame 12-4-0 (6-3-0 Big Ten for 16 points).

BIG TEN STANDINGS

(Conference)

Pts, GP, W-L-T, OW-OL, SW, GF-GA

Michigan 23, 11, 7-4-0, 0-2, 0, 44-28

Minnesota 19, 10, 6-4-0, 0-1, 0, 33-26

Notre Dame 16, 9, 6-3-0, 2-0, 0, 29-21

Ohio State 15, 9, 5-4-0, 0-0, 0, 26-23

Michigan State 12, 9, 4-5-0, 0-0, 0, 23-30

Wisconsin 8, 9, 3-6-0, 1-0, 0, 18-29

Penn State 6, 9, 2-7-0, 0-0, 0, 21-37

(Overall, W-L-T, .Pct, GF-GA)

Michigan 14-5-0, .737, 80-45; Minnesota 10-8-0, .556, 61-49; Notre Dame 12-4-0, .750, 58-32; Ohio State 9-6-0, .600, 48-36; Michigan State 9-7-1, .559, 43-45; Wisconsin 5-11-1, .324, 29-53; Penn State 10-8-0, .556, 60-54.

Friday, Dec. 10 results

Notre Dame 3, Michigan State 2

Michigan 5, Ohio State 2

Wisconsin 4, Penn State 1

Saturday, Dec. 11 schedule

Michigan State at Notre Dame, 7 p.m.

Michigan at Ohio State, 8 p.m.

Penn State at Wisconsin, 7 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 16 schedule

Bowling Green at Ohio State, 7 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 17 schedule

Ohio State at Bowling Green, 7 p.m.