SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Michigan State secured the last home-ice playoff spot in the CCHA with a 2-1 win over Notre Dame at the Joyce Center on Saturday night.
All three goals in the game were scored via the power play with the Spartans getting man-advantage goals from Jim Slater and Jim McKenzie while Notre Dame got its lone goal from junior Tim Wallace, his second in as many nights.
The loss extended Notre Dame’s winless streak to 17 games (0-15-2) and dropped the Irish to 5-15-6 overall and 3-20-5 in CCHA play. Notre Dame will open the best-of-three first round of the playoffs on Friday, March 11 at top-seeded Michigan. With the win, Michigan State moved into sole possession of sixth place in the CCHA, the final home playoff spot. The Spartans are now 17-15-4 overall and 12-13-3 in league play. They will host Miami in the first round of the playoffs.
“We played well enough to win. Once again we had our chances and couldn’t put them away,” said Irish head coach Dave Poulin. “Michigan State was opportunistic. They scored twice on the power play and that was the difference.”
Slater gave the Spartans their first lead of the night at 16:59 of the first period when he whipped a shot from the bottom of the right wing circle past Cey for his 15th goal of the season on a five-on-three power-play goal. Michigan State out shot the Irish 14-7 in the opening stanza.
The Irish would tie the game at one at 8:59 of the second period when Wallace got his fifth of the year on a Notre Dame power play, snapping an 0-for-11 drought with the extra man. Freshman defenseman Brock Sheahan set the play in motion as he moved the puck to Mike Walsh to the right of the Spartans’ goal. Walsh’s shot got through Dominic Vicari and laid in the crease where Wallace would push it over the goal line to even the score.
Michigan State got the eventual game winner at 11:41 on the power play. Cey made the first stop on a shot by Colton Fretter, but couldn’t control the rebound. McKenzie was parked in front and flipped the rebound over Cey for his 10th goal of the season.
Cey, playing in his final home game for the Irish kept Notre Dame in the game by making 30 of his 35 saves in the first two periods.
“Morgan (Cey), in his final game at the Joyce Center, was terrific all night long. He kept us in the game and gave us an opportunity to win,” said Poulin.
The Irish had several late chances to even the score as Wallace rang a shot off the post in the final period and Wes O’Neill almost scored on a power-play rush in the final five minutes, but Vicari was equal to the task in goal.
For the game, Michigan State outshot the Irish 37-24. Cey made 35 saves for Notre Dame and Vicari had 23 stops for the Spartans.
Wallace also set the Notre Dame record in the game for consecutive games played as he played in the 115th consecutive game of his career, passing Evan Nielsen’s mark of 114 set between 2000 and 2003.
“That’s quite an accomplishment for Timmy,” said Poulin. “That’s a lot of games for a player who plays a physical style like he does. He really had a strong weekend for us.”
The Irish now get ready for a first-round series at Michigan that will begin at Yost Arena on March 11th.
“We have a good reference point, since we just played them (Michigan) two weeks ago. We have to focus on the things we need to do to be successful against a talented team like Michigan,” said Poulin. “I’m and optimist and our guys haven’t quit playing. We have to go in there with the mindset that we are capable of stealing a series. We’re a heavy underdog. We’ll try some different things and see what happens.”