EAST LANSING, Mich. — With the final shot total of Friday’s game between Michigan State and Notre Dame 43-39 in favor of the Spartans, the game had to have been a high scoring affair, right?
Instead, it was goalie showcase between MSU goalie Ryan Miller and Notre Dame goalie Morgan Cey, which Miller got the better of in a 2-0 MSU win before 6,647 fans at Munn Ice Arena.
A late second-period goal by junior defenseman John-Michael Liles and an empty-net goal late in the third by senior captain Adam Hall were more than enough for Miller, who earned his seventh shutout of the season and the 25th of his brilliant career.
“It was one of those games I don’t think I can recall for a long time where both teams had a lot of chances around the front of the net,” MSU head coach Ron Mason said. “It was one of those offensive games where you get into that characteristically our fans don’t get to see often.”
The first 39 minutes of the game saw plenty of action but no goals, as both Miller and Cey took turns making point-blank saves to keep the score deadlocked.
The goaltenders’ performances were even more impressive given that unseasonably warm
temperatures made for softer ice at Munn, making the puck bounce more than normal.
Michigan State finally broke the deadlock with just 33.6 seconds remaining in the second on a power play when Liles grabbed a loose puck at the blue line, skated in, and fired a rocket above Cey’s glove and below the crossbar for a 1-0 MSU lead.
“It was a good shot,” Cey admitted afterward. “I normally don’t like to tip my hat to a shooter and I still won’t. He blew it by me, but some nights it will happen and some nights it won’t and tonight I didn’t get it.”
Notre Dame pulled Cey with about 1:15 left and held the puck in the MSU zone for nearly a minute, but failed to get one past Miller.
Hall then capped the game with a terrific empt- net goal, as he dove for a loose puck at the Notre Dame blue line and poked it into the vacant net with 11.5 seconds remaining.
Miller, who said afterward the ice didn’t bother him as much as did the forwards, said he picked a good time to end his shutout drought at two months, with the last one coming Dec. 8 at Northern Michigan.
“I just try to put myself in the right position and obviously tonight it was good timing because the one goal we got was hard-fought and we didn’t really break away until [Hall] chipped that second one in. ”
Notre Dame had its chances throughout the game, including senior forward Dave Inman’s three chances at point-blank range, all stopped by Miller.
“That’s the reason he won the Hobey Baker as a sophomore and the reason he’s the best player in college hockey,” Notre Dame head coach Dave Poulin said about Miller.
Poulin equally praised the play of his goalie, but Cey wasn’t about to accept moral victories.
“It’s more fun if we have a couple of goals at the other end,” he said.
Poulin also said given his team’s performance on Friday, he doesn’t anticipate many changes when the Spartans and Irish play again on Saturday at Munn.
“We put  shots on net against one of the top defensive teams in college hockey, so you’ve got to stay the course,” he said.
Michigan State will try to extend its home unbeaten streak to 34 games in Saturday’s rematch.
“We’ll normally get a few more breaks at home than we do on the road,” said Mason.