Michigan State Hockey Goes To South Bend & Upsets Notre Dame

Hondo S. Carpenter

The Michigan State Spartan hockey team was on life support heading into a daunting weekend in South Bend. But life support doesn’t mean dead and behind an amazing performance by goalie Johnny Lethemon, the Spartans win game one of the series and keep their post season hopes alive. 

MSU super SID Jeff Barnes provided this recap to Spartan Nation:

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Two second-period goals broke a 1-1 tie to help the Michigan State hockey team top Notre Dame, 3-1, on Friday night at the Compton Family Ice Arena. Logan Lambdin had a goal and assist while goaltender John Lethemon made 40 saves for Michigan State (15-17-1, 11-11-1-0).

"I thought they played real, real determined," MSU head coach Danton Cole said. "We talked about it before the game and I said let's be relentless out there. The Coach Izzo quote we have in our hallway "Tough players win." I thought our guys were all of that."

The Spartans got on the board first late in the opening period on a perfect redirect by Tommy Apap. Austin Kamer controlled the puck along the left boards before feeding it to Butrus Ghafari at the left point. Ghafari let go a wrister that Apap got his stick on, deflecting the puck down and then past UND goaltender Cale Morris for his seventh goal of the season.

Notre Dame (14-13-6, 9-9-5-3) was able to tie it up 1:23 into the second when Colin Theisen picked up the puck in the neutral zone and carried it into the Spartan zone where a shot from the left circle found the top corner of the net.

The tie lasted just four minutes and 30 seconds as Dennis Cesana reclaimed the lead for MSU at the 5:53 mark with a perfect shot off the rush. Cesana started the play by carrying the puck out from the MSU end. After a quick give-and-go with Lambdin at center ice, Cesana brought the puck into the Irish zone and quickly snapped a shot from the right circle that went over the glove of Morris on the short side.

The Spartans pushed their lead to 3-1 with 4:44 to go in the second period on a play that was started and finished by Lambdin. The senior forward intercepted a clearing attempt between the circles and quickly got the puck to Josh Nodler, who was stationed off the left of the crease. Nodler immediately returned the puck across the crease to Lambdin, who banged it home for his sixth goal of the season.

"You could tell that the last few days of practice the sickness had kind of moved through and we had a little more jump and a little more life and that carried over tonight," said Cole.

Notre Dame outshot MSU 14-6 in the third period with the help of two power play opportunities, both of which the Spartans extinguished. MSU penalties at the midway point of the third and then with 4:48 to play gave the Irish chances to pull closer, but the Spartans and Lethemon denied every opportunity.

"Defensively we were really good," said Cole. "There weren't many odd-man rushes and we handled them really well. Our backchecking was outstanding and I thought we did a really good job defending below our goal line.

"In the areas we had to be really strong and win battles, we did."

MSU went 0-for-2 on the power play and extinguished all three Notre Dame chances. The Irish finished with a 41-29 advantage in shots on goal.

The win kept the Spartans' hopes alive for a chance of finishing in the top four in the Big Ten standings and hosting a conference tournament quarterfinal series next weekend. The Spartans and Irish will wrap up the regular season by meeting again on Saturday at 6 p.m.

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