Michigan State hockey sweeps Notre Dame with 3-2 win: Analysis and reaction
EAST LANSING – Lansing State Journal sports reporter Nathaniel Bott breaks down No. 17 Michigan State's 3-2 win on senior night Saturday against No. 20 Notre Dame.
Michigan State came into Saturday's game with Notre Dame eyeing a crucial series sweep and a six-point weekend to put itself in strong position to host a Big Ten tournament series.
MSU was also looking to send its 10 seniors out with a win on senior night, with those festivities coming postgame. Those seniors played a major role in the game, but an underclassman who hadn't scored since October was the one to notch the winner.
With score tied 2-2 in the third period, sophomore defenseman David Gucciardi had the puck cycle to him at the point while on the power play, and his blast from the blue line through a crowd in front gave the Spartans a 3-2 lead with 16 minutes to play.
MSU goaltender Dylan St. Cyr and the rest of the Spartans defended well the rest of the way, allowing just eight Irish shots in the final frame. The score stayed 3-2 until the final horn, and MSU had a sweep that couldn't have come at a better time. The win jumped MSU into a tie for second place in the Big Ten standings with Penn State with 30 pionts, pending the results of the late games between the Nittany Lions and Ohio State and Michigan and Wisconsin.
MSU started the scoring in the first period as freshman forward Karsen Dorwart stepped into space in the slot during a 4-on-3 advantage and ripped a wrist shot low past Notre Dame goaltender Ryan Bischel.
Notre Dame answered less than two minutes later as Landon Slaggert had a shot take a deflection and flutter over St. Cyr, making it 1-1.
MSU's second line of junior Jeremy Davidson and seniors Nico Muller and Erik Middendorf was active on Friday and stayed engaged Saturday. A strong forecheck kept the puck in MSU's offensive zone, and Middendorf found Davidson, who maintained control with two defenders hounding him. Davidson was able to deliver a pass across the face of goal and right onto Muller's tape, who beat a sprawling Bischel to make it 2-1 late in the first period.
Both sides had chances throughout the second period but couldn't score. But then a major penalty for boarding was assessed to MSU's Jagger Joshua to gie the Irish a man advantage for the final five minutes of the middle frame. Irish forward Chayse Primeau found an opportunity in the slot and hammered a one-timer past St. Cyr to even the score heading to the third period.
St. Cyr finished with 33 saves, while Bischel had 25 for Notre Dame. Davidson and Middendorf assisted on both Muller and Gucciardi's goals. The sweep marks the first for the Spartans over the Irish since 2006.
What it means
On Friday, MSU was the quicker and cleaner team and made the most of its chances. Saturday, the sides were much more even. The Irish were much sharper applied more pressure than the night before, but MSU did just enough to earn one of its biggest series sweeps in recent memory.
The win puts the Spartans in a good position to potentially host a Big Ten tournament series for the first time in program history. MSU's four remaining games include two with Michigan next weekend — one at Munn and one at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit — and two on the road at last-place Wisconsin. Depending on other results in the conference, earning six or more points of the possible 12 remaining could be enough to give MSU at least a fourth-place finish and home ice.
What they said
Nightingale, on St. Cyr's performance over the weekend: "He's big time, and it's a really critical position and (St. Cyr) has done a great job. He's a real confident guy and has a real swagger to him and I think that comes from his preparation. I wasn't worried one bit about him and I'm happy for him, and for him to play like he did against Notre Dame and on senior night it was special."
Davidson, on his line with Muller and Middendorf: "I think we've been playing defense well and we've gotten some bounces. It's nice to be with (Middendorf) again and I've been with (Muller) all year and we have really good chemistry. It's a game of inches and we were on their defensemen and we really played together and it paid off and created those chances for us."
St. Cyr, on senior night and the crowd: "I think all year, building the fan base back up here, it's really exciting to see the crowd get into it when we score a goal, make a save, kill a penalty, whatever it is. The fans have really appreciated all the work we've put in and we appreciate them as well. It was really special for the guys on senior night and to do it against a team like Notre Dame at a really important time of the year was really fun."
Despite the senior night ceremony being held Saturday, MSU still has one more home game left this coming Friday against No. 6-ranked Michigan.
Contact Nathaniel Bott at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Nathaniel_Bott
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: MSU sweeps Notre Dame with 3-2 Saturday win: Analysis and reaction