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Friday, April 12, 2024
The Observer

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Notre Dame rides highs, lows in split with No. 8 Michigan State

4-1 Friday Irish, 4-0 SaturdayMichigan State

The last time the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans visited Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame hockey fans walked away with an eerie ringing in their ear. 

The sound of Michigan State’s most popular chant, “go green, go white,” resounding through a mostly empty rink at the close of the Spartan’s B1G quarterfinal victory last year has been a lasting memory for Irish fans. 

This weekend represented an opportunity for vengeance, with the Spartans back in town for the first time since ending Notre Dame’s 2023 season. With a 4-1 win in Friday’s series opener, the Irish seemed well on their way towards achieving that goal. 

And yet, a 4-0 Spartan shutout Saturday spoiled any hopes of redemption. Regardless of all the good that came from the Irish’s Friday win, the series ended with a familiar rallying cry again ringing out at Compton Family Ice Arena: “go green, go white.”

Friday: Notre Dame 4, Michigan State 1

Despite their 4-1 victory Friday night, Notre Dame entered the day not knowing what to expect. After a strong week of practice during their bye, the Fighting Irish suffered from a flu bug in the days leading up to their return this weekend. 

“We had five, six, seven guys out at some times during the week, so I’m proud of them for fighting through that,” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said postgame. “We got everybody back for practice yesterday, which is kind of a requirement to play on Friday, but I’m sure some guys were still a little drained from going through the flu.”

If the Irish were drained, they showed no signs of it in the game’s opening frame. As might be expected when these two teams meet up, the first period was a no-scoring, low-event affair. Spartan freshman netminder Trey Augustine made all nine stops for Michigan State, while Irish graduate student starter Ryan Bischel kicked out all nine for his side. Both teams failed to convert on a power-play opportunity.

The second period started much the same. Things took a turn when Notre Dame freshman Danny Nelson was whistled for holding at 7:42, putting the Spartans on the power-play. Michigan State wasted no time putting it to good use. After sophomore center Karsen Dorwart won the faceoff, Tampa Bay Lightning draftee Isaac Howard deposited a one-timer crossbar-down to give the Spartans the lead. The goal came just 3 seconds into the man-advantage.

Yet, resilience has been a theme for this year’s edition of Fighting Irish hockey. That theme shone through again after the Howard goal, as Notre Dame responded in short order. Just 27 seconds after Michigan State took the lead, graduate student defenseman Ryan Siedem capitalized on a broken play in the slot to tie the game.

“That’s the second time in a few weeks now that [the opponent] scores and we come right back and score,” Jackson said. “The ability to come back and respond is critical.”

Siedem’s 3rd goal of the season stole not only the lead, but also any momentum the Spartans had hoped to build. Even before going down, though, the mental toughness to respond had been a focus for Jackson’s squad.

“One thing coach [Jackson] was saying before the game was just [to] respond when the other team scores,” Siedem said. “We did a good job against Penn State with that, so that was good for us to just get a goal right away and get our momentum back.”

Notre Dame would take the lead for good in the third, when senior defenseman Drew Bavaro electrified Compton Family Ice Arena with his sixth goal of the season. After a shift in which the Irish tested Augustine with a number of chances, sophomore defenseman Michael Mastrodomenico found Bavaro for a one-timer. 

The Irish extended their lead soon thereafter, as freshman forward Brennan Ali sprung classmate Cole Knuble for a breakaway. Knuble beat Augustine with a wrister to the blocker side. The whole play began in the Notre Dame defensive zone, when Irish senior defenseman blocked freshman Austin Oravetz’s shot. He was slow to his feet, but his sacrifice was rewarded.

The Irish showed a willingness for that sort of sacrifice throughout Friday’s game. After taking the two-goal lead, Notre Dame seemed all the more eager to step in front of Spartan shots.

“We’ve been putting an emphasis on blocked shots, I think we didn’t do it enough at the beginning of the year and coach [Jackson] wanted to see it a little more,” said Bavaro, who’s goal would go down as the game winner.

Notre Dame tallied 19 blocked shots, while Michigan State blocked nine. Notre Dame’s blocks came at noticeably important moments, with 15 of those 19 coming in the final two periods.

“It’s that time of year, where you’re going to have to pay the price and sacrifice in order to win games, and blocking shots is a big piece of that,” Jackson said.

Graduate student forward Trevor Janicke iced the game into the empty with just over a minute remaining, sending the sellout crowd of 5,292 at Compton Family Ice Arena home smiling.

In a part one of a battle between two of the Big Ten’s best netminders, Bischel outdueled Augustine. The Irish stalwart stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced tonight, with the lone goal allowed being a nearly unstoppable howitzer from Howard. Augustine, a Detroit second round draft pick, was the hard luck loser. He stopped 27 of 30 Irish shots. The Spartans were also 1-for-5 on the power-play, while Notre Dame went 0-for-2.

Saturday: Michigan State 4, Notre Dame 0

It was a familiar Saturday night story for Notre Dame in game two. A 4-0 Michigan State victory to conclude the series dropped the Fighting Irish to 6-6-1 this season in the second game of back-to-back sets. Notre Dame is 8-4-1 in series openers.

The second period proved to be the turning point in the contest. Notre Dame had no answer for the Spartans in the middle frame. Already ahead 1-0, Michigan State opened the period by outshooting the Irish 16-4 before a wraparound goal by senior Jeremy Davidson doubled the lead. Freshman defenseman Artyom Levshunov added a power-play marker with 4.9 seconds remaining in the frame to put the Spartans up 3-0 after 2. 

“I didn’t like our second period,” Jackson said postgame. “I thought we were OK in the first, we needed to score, probably.”

The Irish had their chances to score in the first period, most notably a 5-on-3 power-play which generated few opportunities. Less than three minutes later, Dorwart scored Michigan State’s first goal with an excellent individual effort, beating Bischel bar-down. 

Trailing after one, Notre Dame could not muster the sort of resilient response which has been so key to their success in their previous four game winning streak. 

“They came out with a lot more energy than we did, I can’t tell you exactly why that was,” Jackson said. “We didn’t have a good response coming back in the second period, being down 1-0 I would’ve thought we’d come back with more energy.”

Down 3-0 after two, Jackson shook up his lines in the third hoping to create a spark. The line maneuvering was to no avail. Junior forward Red Savage gave the Spartans a 4-0 lead at 11:59 of the third, accidentally deflecting freshman Gavin O’Connell’s shot past Bischel. Savage’s ninth of the season effectively put the game out of reach.

With a 30-save shutout, Augustine got the last laugh in this weekend’s duel of the goaltenders. Despite being beaten four times, Bischel kept Notre Dame in the game. He finished with 38 saves, many of high quality in the second period.

Notre Dame particularly struggled on the power-play tonight, finishing 0-for-6. Not only were the Irish unable to score, they were also unable to generate any momentum from their numerous man-advantages.

“It’s such a crucial part of the game,” Jackson said. “I thought we had been coming on, our power-plays the last two or three weeks have been exceptionally good in practice, but we get into a game though and it slows down.”

Notre Dame will travel to Madison for a series with No. 5 Wisconsin next weekend, still clinging to the fourth and final home ice seed in the Big Ten standings. The Irish have No. 12 Michigan, fresh off a sweep of Ohio State, hot on their heels.

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