NOTRE DAME, Indiana – A power-play goal 2:28 into the third period was the only difference between Michigan State and Notre Dame in the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal series between the teams on Friday at Compton Family Ice Arena. Mike O’Leary’s deflection on a shot from the point 2:28 into the third period broke the stalemate and gave the second-seeded Fighting Irish a 1-0 win and a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three series.
The Spartans (12-18-5) had their chances to get on the board, but goaltender Cale Morris stopped all 27 shots MSU sent his way. MSU outshot UND (19-13-3) in each of the first two periods and by a count of 27-24 for the game.
“I thought both teams played hard,” MSU head coach Danton Cole said. “There weren’t a ton of mistakes made, but we had some chances. Hit the crossbar there that could have gotten us out to the lead and it’s just a little bit different if that goes in. When we had the goalie pulled we had the puck around the net quite a bit. So it was one of those where we couldn’t get one by him, but the guys battled hard and we’re going to have to figure out a way to win the game tomorrow.”
The Spartans carried the play early on as Notre Dame didn’t register its first shot on goal until nearly nine minutes into the game. MSU held an 8-2 advantage in shots on goal past the midway point of the opening period.
Just over five minutes into the second period, Adam Goodsir nearly put the Spartans on the board when his wrister from the low slot beat Morris, but bounced off the crossbar.
Some of the Spartans’ best chances of the game came during a 5:00 power just past the midway point of the middle stanza. Taro Hirose just missed on an attempt at the top of the crease, while the best opportunity came from Logan Lambdin on a wraparound attempt. Lambdin came into the Notre Dame zone along the left side, sped around the net and tried to tuck the puck in around the backside, but Morris got over just in time to keep it out.
O’Leary’s goal 2:28 into the third came on the first of three straight Notre Dame power plays as MSU extinguished the final two.
The Spartans pulled goaltender John Lethemon with just over 1:30 to go and kept the puck in the Notre Dame zone nearly the entire remainder of the game, but could not get it past Morris.
Michigan State will need to win Saturday’s game two to extend the series to a decisive game on Sunday. Puck drop on Saturday is set for 7 p.m.