Irish rally to tie Spartans, 2-2, get extra point but will start Big Ten playoffs on road

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame’s hockey team will begin its quest for a third straight Big Ten Tournament championship next weekend in an unfamiliar spot: On the road.

Coach Jeff Jackson’s Irish, who had won the previous two Big Ten postseason titles at the Lefty Smith Rink in the Compton Family Ice Arena, rallied late on third-period goals by Alex Steeves and Cam Morrison to tie Michigan State 2-2 Saturday night before 5,355.

It didn’t matter that Notre Dame won the extra point after two scoreless overtimes in a penalty-shot finish when senior Tory Dello beat MSU goalie John Lethemon after Spartan Patrick Khodorenko’s goal against Irish goalie Cale Morris was disallowed.

The Irish (14-13-7, 9-9-6-4 Big Ten) finished with 37 points, tying Ohio State, which was playing a late game against Wisconsin. The Buckeyes will get the higher seed because of more league wins, leaving Notre Dame behind league champ Penn State (41) and the Buckeyes. With Michigan earning a 2-1 victory Saturday night at Minnesota, the Wolverines ended up tying the Gophers with 38 points.

Coach Danton Cole’s Spartans (15-17-2, 11-11-2-0 Big Ten) finish with 35 points for sixth place.

Trailing 2-0 late in the third period they dominated with a 16-3 shot advantage, the Irish got goals from Alex Steeves at 15:12 and, maybe fittingly, from senior Morrison at 16:57 to send the game into overtime. It was Morrison’s game-winning goals that beat Ohio State two seasons ago for the post-season title and he got the game-winner last year against Penn State.

The Spartans got goals from Logan Lambdin and Josh Nodler and 35 saves from Lethemon. Morris finished with 22 saves.

As they did in Friday’s 3-1 loss, the Fighting Irish kept Lethemon busy from the start. In the first 20 minutes, the Spartan goalie, one of six seniors recognized in a classy move by Notre Dame on its own Senior Night, made 15 stops of Irish shots on goal and his teammates blocked another nine from getting there.

Morris, meanwhile, made seven saves including stops of Cesana (at 3:50) and Lambdin (11:32) when they got behind the Irish defense. Cesana was robbed again by Morris when his 30-footer from the slot was gloved by the Irish netminder at 15:46.

From that point on, the Irish dominated. Lethemon stopped Cam Burke and then Matt Steeves in the 16th minute and then at 17:16 Nate Clurman hit the post with his shot from the point, the rebound falling underneath Lethemon.

Then just before the final siren, Nick Leivermann unleashed a blast from the point and Lethemon made the save but lost track of the puck. For a moment, the disc was looking at an empty net but the Irish couldn’t get to it before the horn.

A poor clearing pass by the Irish ended up in a 3-on-1 close-in break by the Spartans. Cesana’s initial shot beat Morris but not the crossbar. The rebound came out to Lambdin, who buried the puck into the vacated net at 5:41 of the second period for a 1-0 MSU lead.

The Spartans outshot the Irish 12-4 and Lethemon had 19 saves through two periods, one more than Morris. The second period ended with at least separate pair-offs between the two teams, but no penalties were dispensed.

The Irish were careless early in the third period and Lambdin, who had a goal and assist in Friday’s game, made them pay again. Skating into the faceoff circle on a 2-on-1, Lambdin shoveled the puck over to Nodler, whose quick shot stunned Morris for a 2-0 MSU lead at 2:28.

Notre Dame got a power play at 6:40 when Nico Muller of the Spartans went off for tripping. But Lethemon was tested just twice and neither time with much pressure.

But the Irish tied it up when Graham Slaggert fed Steeves, whose wrister beat Lethemon at 15:12. Then 1:45 later, captain Cal Burke, who along with Dello, Morris and Mike O’Leary were saluted after the game, slid a shot in front that Morrison tipped home to send the game into overtime.


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

Michigan State;0;1;1;0—2

Notre Dame;0;0;2;0—2

First Period—Scoring: None. Penalties: Michigan State 1-2, Notre Dame 1-2.

Second Period—Scoring: 1. Michigan State, Logan Lambdin 7 (Dennis Cesana) EV 5:41. Penalties (total): Michigan State 0-0 (1-2), Notre Dame 0-0 (1-2).

Third Period—Scoring: 2. Michigan State, Josh Nodler 3 (Logan Lambdin, Jagger Joshua) EV 2:28. 3. Notre Dame, Alex Steeves 10 (Graham Slaggert, Spencer Stastney) EV 15:12. 4. Notre Dame, Cam Morrison 11 (Cal Burke, Michael Graham) EV 16:57. Penalties (total): Michigan State 1-2 (2-4), Notre Dame 0-0 (1-2).

Overtime—Scoring: None. Penalties (total): Michigan State 0-0 (2-4), Notre Dame 0-0 (1-2).

Power-play opportunities—Michigan State 0 of 1, Notre Dame 0 of 2.

Faceoffs won—Michigan State 25 (9-5-9-2), Notre Dame 32 (11-10-9-2).

Blocked shots—Michigan State 28 (9-5-10-4), Notre Dame 9 (1-6-2-0).

Shots on goal—Michigan State 24 (7-12-3-2), Notre Dame 35 (15-4-16-2).

Goalie saves—Michigan State, John Lethemon 35 (15-4-14-2), Notre Dame, Cale Morris 22 (7-11-2-2).

A—5,355 (4,850).

Late Friday

• Michigan State 3, Notre Dame 1: Logan Lambdin had the insurance goal after assisting on the game-winner in the second period and goalie John Lethemon turned away 40 Notre Dame shots before a sellout crowd of 5,265 fans at the Smith Rink.

Dennis Cesana had the eventual game-winning goal for the Spartans at 5:53 of the second period with assists from Lambdin and Jerad Rosburg. Lambdin then scored an insurance goal at 15:16 of the period.

Michigan State took a 1-0 lead at 13:43 of the first period on Tommy Asap’s goal. Notre Dame tied it at 1:23 of the second period on Colin Theisen’s eighth goal of the season with assists from Mike O’Leary and Spencer Stastney.

Cale Morris finished with 26 saves for Notre Dame.

Michigan State;1;2;0—3

Notre Dame;0;1;0—1

First Period—Scoring: 1. Michigan State, Tommy Asap 7 (Butrus Ghafari, Austin Kamer) EV 13:43. Penalties: Michigan State 0-0, Notre Dame 2-4.

Second Period—Scoring: 2. Notre Dame, Colin Theisen 8 (Mike O’Leary, Spencer Stastney) EV 1:23. 3. Michigan State, Dennis Cesana 7 (Logan Lambdin, Jerad Rosburg) EV 5:53; 4. Michigan State, Logan Lambdin 6 (Josh Nodler) EV 15:16. Penalties (total): Michigan State 1-2 (1-2), Notre Dame 0-0 (2-4).

Third Period—Scoring: None. Penalties (total): Michigan State 2-4 (3-6), Notre Dame 0-0 (2-4).

Power-play opportunities—Michigan State 0 of 2, Notre Dame 0 of 3.

Faceoffs won—Michigan State 29, Notre Dame 24.

Blocked shots—Michigan State 21, Notre Dame 14.

Shots on goal—Michigan State 29 (12-11-6), Notre Dame 41 (12-15-14).

Goalie saves—Michigan State, John Lethemon 40 (12-14-14), Notre Dame, Cale Morris 26 (11-9-6).

A—5,265 (4,850).

Notre Dame’s Graham Slaggert (18) and Michigan State’s Butrus Ghafari (44) fight for the puck during Saturday’s game at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.