The Notre Dame Fighting Irish played their first game at home since Dec. 1 and gave a sellout crowd of 2,763 plenty of action as they pulled out a 1-1 tie with Michigan State on a goal by Ryan Thang with just 38 seconds left.
Notre Dame kept Michigan State goaltender Jeff Lerg busy all afternoon, firing 35 shots at the Spartan goaltender, but could only get Thang's deflected shot by the talented netminder. The Irish defense played a stingy game of their own, limiting Michigan State to 15 shots and a second-period power-play goal by Nick Sucharski.
The tie salvaged a point on the weekend for sixth-ranked Notre Dame after Friday night's 3-1 loss at ninth-ranked Michigan State and kept the Irish a point ahead of the Spartans in the league standing. Notre Dame is now 18-7-1 overall and 11-4-1 in conference play. Michigan State goes to 14-5-4 for the season and 10-2-2 in the CCHA.
"I thought we played pretty well tonight. We held the defending national champions to 10 shots through the first two periods and were out shooting them two to one," said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson. "We're a little snake bit right now, it happens to the best of teams and the best of players. Everyone is asking what's wrong with the power play. It's boiling down to individual things. We're getting our chances and just not finishing. Plus we faced a great goaltender."
The Irish had a 7-5 edge in shots after a scoreless first period and led 19-10 after the second stanza but trailed 1-0.
The Spartans got the lone goal of the first 40 minutes off the stick of Nick Sucharski on a Michigan State power play at 8:27 of the second period.
Justin Abdelkader moved the puck from the goal line to the left of Jordan Pearce to Sucharski at the top of the left circle. Sucharski moved to the slot and fired a shot through a screen the beat Pearce just inside the right post for his sixth goal of the year and second of the weekend.
The Irish continued to pour on the pressure in the third period, but Lerg continued to slam the door on Notre Dame with the help of a suffocating defense that blocked 17 shots on the night.
"They (Michigan State) play a system that makes it hard to get pucks through to the net," said Jackson. "Four guys back in the neutral zone all the time; four guys in front of the net makes it hard to get shots on goal. That's why Michigan State is such a good team.
As the clock wound down, the Irish pulled Pearce with 1:20 left for a sixth attacker. They got a face off outside the Spartans' zone and took a time out to set up a play while Pearce came back in with just under a minute left.
"It was a neutral zone face off and I didn't want to pull Jordan (Pearce) too early," said Jackson. We had a certain strategy and they executed it perfectly, allowing us to get Jordan off and help set up the tying goal."
After winning the face off, the Irish dumped it in to the Michigan State zone where the puck came around to the left corner. Thang was able to get to it and move it back towards the point. A Spartan defender stopped the puck along the left boards and his clearing attempt was stopped by defenseman Brett Blatchford.
Blatchford moved out from the boards and threw the puck in front of the net as Thang came across in front of Lerg. The puck hit Thang and then went off his stick and over Lerg for the tying goal at 19:22. The goal was Thang's team-high 12th of the season and the fifth time this season, that the sophomore left wing recorded a game-winning or tying goal.
"We just wanted to get the puck in deep. I got in and deflected it back off the boards," said Thang. "I just went to the front of the net. Blatch (Brett Blatchford) got a good shot on net. It hit me then hit my stick and went in. It was kind of a fluke deal but I'll take it."
Play got chippy at the end of regulation and Notre Dame came out of the melee with a power play to start overtime. With the power-play chance, the Irish got three scoring chances that Lerg stopped and defenseman Dan VeNard rang a shot off the post. Notre Dame fired eight shots in overtime to one for Michigan State, but the game ended after 65 minutes in a 1-1 tie.
On the night, Lerg finished with 34 saves and on the weekend stopped 64-of-66 shots Notre Dame fired at him. Pearce finished with 14 saves on the night.
The Irish will next be in action next weekend versus top-ranked Michigan. The two teams will meet at Yost Arena on Friday night in an 8:05 p.m. start.