Spartans Upset No. 5 Irish, 4-3, Saturday
Lewandowski nets two goals, Rosburg posts three points to bolster MSU
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Two goals from Mitchell Lewandowski and three points from Jerad Rosburg bolstered Michigan State hockey to a 4-3 upset win over No. 5/3 Notre Dame Saturday night at Notre Dame’s Compton Family Arena. The victory for MSU spoiled what was set up to be a celebratory night for Notre Dame, as it was Irish Senior Night, as well as raising their Big Ten Conference regular-season banner.
Michigan State never led until the third period, and was a goal down on three different occasions, but the scrappy Spartans never backed down.
“It was gutsy, we were down 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, and the guys just kept going. They did a nice job on the bench, and we’ve improved a lot in that area, where we didn’t let things get away from us, regardless of what happened last night. We learned some things and built off of that, but they’re a resilient bunch and I think they believe they can win hockey games, which they’ve been doing lately,” MSU head coach Danton Cole said.
With the win, MSU concludes regular-season action with a 12-20-2 overall mark and 6-16-2-1 in Big Ten play, while Notre Dame is now 23-9-2, 17-6-1-1 in conference action. The Irish had already clinched the Big Ten regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, and raised the banner after Saturday’s loss.
The Spartans out-shot the Irish, 36-26, including 18-8 in the second period, for MSU’s most in the second period this season and second-most in a period overall behind 19 in third period vs. Penn State (2/17).
Freshman forward Lewandowski continued his season tear, netting two goals for his 18th and 19th of the season, as he now leads the Big Ten and also leads all freshman nationally. His 33 points are the most by a Spartan freshman in over 20 years.
Sophomore defenseman Rosburg entered Saturday’s game with eight points on the season, all on assists, but tallied three points in the win, with his first goal of the season, which was the Spartans’ game-winner, as well as adding two assists.
“When he’s assertive, he’s a heckuva hockey player,” Cole said about Rosburg. “It’s probably the most assertive I’ve seen him, whether it was finishing checks or stepping up on their fore-check, or putting pucks on net, and he ended up with two assists, and just hammering pucks on net. That’s good for him and hopefully he keeps building just like the team. That’s what you want to see, you want to see guys start having success and start believing it.”
Fellow sophomore, forward Taro Hirose added two points on a goal and an assist.
Another Spartan sophomore, goalie John Lethemon made 23 saves, including some big ones in the waning moments of the game, staving off a frenzied final force by the Irish.
Notre Dame netminder Cale Morris, who entered the game leading the nation in save percentage, made 32 saves, while allowing the four goals, and left the net for the final 1:18 of the game.
After Notre Dame opened the scoring on a goal by Colin Theisen at 12:35, the Spartans leveled it a 1-1 on a goal by Hirose at 17:31. Senior defenseman Carson Gatt fired a shot from the left point that deflected off Hirose and past Morris into the net to even the score.
The Irish went ahead, 2-1, after a power-play goal by Jake Evans, at 2:44. However, the Spartans kept applying pressure. They broke through the Notre Dame defense at 13:14 on Lewandowski’s first of the night, as sophomore defender Butrus Ghafari fed Rosburg, who fired a shot that Morris saved, but the puck fell right in front of Lewandowski, who rifled it home to once again level the score, this time at 2-all, which it remained for the rest of the period.
Just like the first two periods, the home team Irish scored the first goal of the frame, getting a short-hander by Dennis Gilbert just 42 seconds in. Yet just like they’d done all night, the Spartans bounced back, and just like their second goal, Rosburg created it with a long shot. Again, Morris made the save, as the puck deflected off Morris’ facemask and again Lewandowski buried the biscuit in the basket for a 3-3 tie at 3:20.
The Spartans took their first and only lead of the night at 8:50, as Rosburg netted his first goal of the night. Sophomore center Patrick Khodorenko won the face off back to Rosburg, and he fired the shot past Morris and into the net for the 4-3 MSU advantage.
The Irish ramped up pressure, but Lethemon and the Spartan defense denied them, holding resolute for the win.
Michigan State will open Big Ten Tournament action at Ohio State for a best-of-three series, starting Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m. ET.