EAST LANSING, Mich. — At the end of this 1-0 Notre Dame win, there was a simple consensus: Michigan State was on the short end of a stick that wasn’t that long to begin with.
“I thought we competed hard,” said Fighting Irish coach Jeff Jackson. “Michigan State’s a tough team. They play hard. They compete hard and they probably deserved a better fate. They did a real good job in front of their goalie, who plays really well, but I think the biggest thing for us is that we had to match their compete level, and that’s not always an easy thing.”
Said Spartans coach Tom Anastos, “We’re disappointed in the result, and yet I thought we had a real good effort tonight. I thought our effort probably didn’t get rewarded as much as it could have.”
And that’s the way it went.
The Irish outshot the Spartans, 33-30, and scored their single goal on a power play in the second period of a contest where the difference between the teams was negligible. Both goaltenders – Notre Dame’s Steven Summerhays and Michigan State’s Jake Hildebrand — were outstanding, each facing occasional barrages of shots and having to make multiple saves on single plays.
Robbie Russo’s fifth goal of the season, a blast from the top of the slot on a pass from Sam Calabrese at 9:40 in the second, proved to be just about the only difference in a contest between the No. 2 team in the nation and a squad in the lower half of the CCHA standings.
“That’s obviously a real good team,” said Anastos of second-ranked Notre Dame. “I thought our guys competed real hard and the struggles offensively continue, but I thought we just kept at it and competed real hard for the 60 minutes.”
The offensive woes for the Spartans now span 161 minutes and 19 seconds, back to Matt Berry’s goal at 15:41 in the first period of the third-place game of the Great Lakes Invitational tournament (Dec. 30).
“I thought we did have some good scoring chances,” said Anastos, “some really good scoring chances and couldn’t capitalize. We were getting to the net and they were giving some rebounds, but the puck wasn’t necessarily bouncing to us.”
The Irish were “still a little rusty,” said Jackson, who was grateful for Summerhays’ consistency. “Like I’ve said all along, consistency is the key for a goaltender. He had to be the difference tonight. It was a one-nothing game, and obviously your goaltender is a huge part of that. He’s been solid for us all year long.”
It was the fourth shutout of the season for Summerhays, eighth of his career. At the other end of the ice, Hildebrand made 32 saves in his eighth loss of the season. In spite of the outcome, Anastos said he thinks that Hildebrand’s confidence “has to be growing.”
“He’s played well every time he’s played,” said Anastos. “What I like about him, what he’s shown so far … is kind of a quiet confidence, and you need that, especially in that position.”
When Notre Dame (15-5-0, 11-1-0-0 CCHA) and Michigan State (5-13-3, 4-10-1-0 CCHA) meet again in East Lansing at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night, there is one area that Jackson said needs to be addressed.
“I thought we turned too many pucks over at times and that led to transitions for Michigan State, so they had some good opportunities off transition and we just need to be a little tighter with the puck.”