SOUTH BEND, Ind. — It took over 59 minutes, but the No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish were finally able to sneak a shot past Jeff Lerg.
Ryan Thang deflected a shot from Brett Blatchford with only 37.6 seconds left for Notre Dame’s only goal as the Irish salvaged a 1-1 tie with the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans.
Until Thang’s goal, the Spartans appeared destined to complete a sweep of the Irish despite being thoroughly outskated and out-chanced in the second game of the series.
After Thang’s goal, the Irish dominated the overtime period, registering eight shots on goal to Michigan State’s one. Starting off the period with a power play thanks to Tim Crowder’s roughing the goaltender penalty after the final whistle in the third period, the Irish peppered Lerg with shot after shot. Lerg stood tall, however, in turning them away.
Notre Dame’s best chance in the overtime period came when Dan VeNard ripped a slap shot from the point that beat Lerg to the glove side, but the shot loudly clanged off the goalpost.
Lerg made 34 saves on the night, while Irish netminder Jordan Pearce was also solid in goal, stopping 14 of the 15 shots he faced.
“The most important thing was that we were able to come away with that point,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said. “That late goal should give us some momentum. We had our chances [to win the game] but right now we’re just a little bit snakebit.”
Until the final minute of regulation, it looked as if a power-play goal from Nick Sucharski at 8:27 of the second period was going to be the difference in the game. After Irish forward Mark Van Guilder was unable to clear the puck, Sucharski flipped a wrist shot from the point that found its way through traffic and past Pearce, who didn’t see the shot.
Both teams battled through a scoreless first period that featured the same hard hitting, fast paced style as Friday night’s contest. The pace of the game was lightning-fast throughout the first ten minutes, and both goaltenders made big saves.
Less than a minute into the game, Notre Dame’s Garrett Regan was sprung on a partial breakaway, but he was stoned on a backhand attempt by Lerg. Pearce was tested only seconds later, and he made a nice stop on a snap shot through traffic by Spartan winger Tim Crowder.
Notre Dame finished with seven shots for the period to Michigan State’s five, and had a couple more quality scoring chances. Their best chance came in the final minute of the period, when a perfectly executed pass left Evan Rankin one-on-one with Lerg, but his one time shot went over the net.
Notre Dame had a golden opportunity to take the lead just seconds into the middle period when Erik Condra went in all alone on Lerg, but Condra was unable to lift a backhand over the Lerg’s right pad.
“We’re not too mad at ourselves,” Lerg said after the game. “Obviously we would have loved to get four points, but anytime you can come in and steal a point on the road is good.”
The remainder of the second period again saw the Irish gain the better of the chances, but they were turned away time and time again by Lerg, who finished the period with 12 saves.
The game also featured increased physical play, including several after-the-whistle fights in the third period and overtime. The worst occurred 1:45 into the overtime period, when an eight man brawl behind the Spartans’ net sent four different players to the penalty box. Daniel Vukovic of the Spartans and Kyle Lawson of the Irish each received double minors, with Vukovic appearing to connect on multiple punches to Lawson’s head.
Today’s game concluded the season series between the Irish and the Spartans. Michigan State resumes play on Friday with a trip to Columbus to face Ohio State, while the Irish head north to take on Michigan in a two game series.