NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Cale Morris posted a 27-save shutout and Mike O'Leary scored the game-winning goal on the power play as the second-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team skated to a close 1-0 victory over No. 7 seed Michigan State in game one of the Big Ten quarterfinals Friday night at Compton Family Ice Arena (4,177).
"My big message for them has been focus," head coach Jeff Jackson said. "We have to stay focused for 60 minutes. The last 20 are just as important as the first 20 but when you're in a one-goal game, everything becomes magnified."
The Irish (19-13-3, 12-11-2-2 B1G) and Spartans (12-18-5, 8-13-4-2 B1G) played a tight opening 20 minutes with neither team being able to get on the board before the first intermission. Dylan Malmquist had the best chance for either side in the frame when he rang a shot off the far post early in the frame after an offensive zone faceoff win.
The Notre Dame penalty kill, buoyed by some point-blank stops by Cale Morris, came up big in the second stanza after Cam Burke was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for checking from behind at the 10:10 mark. Morris made six stops on Michigan State's ensuing five minute power play.
The Irish finally broke the scoreless tie when Mike O'Leary deflected a shot past Spartan netminder John Lethemon for a power-play goal 2:28 into the final period.
The Spartans pulled Lethemon for an extra attacker with over a minute remaining, but the Notre Dame defense weathered a final push by Michigan State to earn the 1-0 victory.
Morris finished with 27 saves for the Irish, while John Lethemon made 23 stops for Michigan State. Notre Dame was 1-for-4 on the power play, while the Spartans went 0-for-1 on their five minute power play.
Notre Dame Goal Description
1-0 ND | The Irish scored the lone goal of the contest on the power play at 2:28 of the third. The play began when Andrew Peeke sent the puck to Spencer Stastney at the point. Stastney fired a shot that deflected off the lower body of O'Leary, past Lethemon and into the net.
The Irish and Spartans meet in game two on Saturday night (March 9) at 7 p.m inside Compton. The contest will be streamed live on Big Ten Network Plus. If the Spartans even the series, the deciding game will take place on Sunday (March 10) at 7 p.m. Tickets: UND.com/BuyTickets.
Mike O'Leary's game winning goal was his second in the last three games as he also tallied the game winner in Notre Dame's 5-4 overtime victory over Penn State last Friday.
O'Leary now has four game-winning goals this season.
With an assist, captain Andrew Peeke is on a two-game point-streak (1-1-2).
Cale Morris posted his third shutout of the season and the seventh of his Irish career (and his first in the playoffs).
Notre Dame improved to 3-0-0 on Big Ten Tournament playoff games.
The Irish are now 40-29-0 in the playoffs under head coach Jeff Jackson, including a 29-20-0 mark in conference tournament play.
Notre Dame improved to 4-0-1 against Michigan State this season.