Junior goaltender Steven Summerhays stopped all 30 shots he faced and Robbie Russo scored the only goal that Notre Dame would need as the Irish shutout Michigan State, 1-0, in front of 6,120 at Munn Arena on Friday night.
For Summerhays, the shutout was his third this season and the fifth of his career as he bounced back from Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss at Minnesota. The Irish out shot the Spartans, 33-30, for the night. Michigan State’s Jake Hildebrand stopped 32-of-33 shots in the losing effort.
The win improves #3/#2 Notre Dame to 15-5-0 on the year and 11-1-0-0 in the CCHA. The win was the ninth straight conference win for the Irish, the longest conference-win streak in the program’s history. With the win, Notre Dame moves into first place in the CCHA with 33 points. The Irish move ahead of second-place Miami as the RedHawks dropped a 2-1 decision at Northern Michigan. Michigan State falls to 5-13-3 overall and 4-10-1-0 in the conference.
Notre Dame has now won seven of its last eight games and eight of its last 10 games dating back to Nov. 15th at Michigan.
“I thought that we played okay tonight,” said Irish head coach Jeff Jackson.
“We turned some pucks over that led to transition for Michigan State. They got some opportunities off transition. We just need to be a little tighter with the puck.”
After a scoreless first period that saw the Irish out shoot the Spartans, 12-8, Notre Dame finally broke through on the scoresheet at 9:40 of the second period, scoring on its third power-play attempt of the night. Russo would get the goal, his career-high fifth goal of the season to make it 1-0 in favor of the Irish.
With the Spartans Matt Berry off for interference at 8:51, Notre Dame controlled play in the Spartans’ zone. T.J. Tynan got the play in motion by moving the puck from the left boards to Russo in the high slot. The sophomore defenseman then moved the puck to the right boards to defenseman Sam Calabrese. Calabrese returned the pass to Russo who one-timed a wrist shot through a screen in front that beat Michigan State goaltender Jake Hildebrand over his stick-hand shoulder.
For Russo, who came into the game as the CCHA’s top scoring defenseman, not only was the goal a career best but it also gave him a career-best 16 points in 20 games. As a freshman, he had 15 points in 40 games.
From there, it was all Summerhays as he made 22 of his 30 saves over the final two periods. He made a huge stop of Justin Hooiman with a low blocker save with 13:55 left in the second period. Hooiman was there to scoop up a rebound, but Summerhays got the blocker on it.
“Like I’ve said all along, consistency is the key for a goaltender and he had to be the difference tonight in a 1-0 game,” said Jackson.
“He (Summerhays) has been solid for us all year along and I’m proud to see him carry on here in the second half.”
Late in the third period with Kevin Nugent off for hooking, the Anchorage, Alaska native proved to be the team’s best penalty killer as he stopped three shots at point-blank range to protect the 1-0 lead.
“Michigan State’s a tough team to play. They compete hard. They probably deserved a better fate tonight,” said Jackson.
“They did a good job in front of their goalie who played very well. The biggest thing for us is that we had to match their compete level and that’s not always an easy thing. We just played them a month ago and the first game was just like this one.”
With the shutout, Summerhays becomes the first Notre Dame goaltender with three or more shutouts in a season since Jordan Pearce ‘09 had eight in the 2008-09 season.
Notre Dame and Michigan State will get together at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12 at Munn Arena for the second game of the two-game series. The Irish are 3-0 against the Spartans this season. Saturday’s game will be televised by Comcast and can be seen on South Bend Comcast Channel 3.