MSU hockey’s offense sparked by Lewandowski’s return but could not surge past the Fighting Irish


MSU forward Jeremy Davidson (11) gets congratulated by defenseman Nash Nienhius (4) and forward Mitchell Lewandowski (9) after scoring a goal in the Spartans’ 3-1 win over Miami (OH) on Oct. 15, 2021/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Ryan Radosevich, Hockey Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING – Mitchell Lewandowski’s return to the lineup after 10 games provided a spark to the Spartan offense. Michigan State looked to snap a 10-game losing streak Friday evening at Munn Ice Arena but couldn’t bury more than one against Notre Dame fifth-year senior Matthew Galajda. A pair of goals by Hunter Strand and Landon Slaggart lifted the Fighting Irish over the Spartans 2-1.

“Our guys played extremely well and there’s not an area of the game where we didn’t do a lot of things well … just a good jump all over,” said Michigan State coach Danton Cole. 

Despite the strong fight, the Spartans losing streak extended to 11 games, falling to 11-19-1 overall and 5-16-0 in conference play. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish advance to 22-9-0 and 14-7-0 in the Big Ten.

Michigan State came out competitive against the No. 12 team in the nation and opened up the scoring with 2:49 remaining in the first period. Junior forward Erik Middendorf fired a low-angle shot home from below the near-side faceoff dot on the power play to best the nation’s top penalty-killing squad. The primary assist came from the aforementioned Lewandowski.

MSU forward Erik Middendorf corrals the puck out of the air/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBm

“Having his energy and his leadership in the locker room is something that we needed, and that was a big game tonight, and I think we got these guys tomorrow,” said Middendorf.

After being outshot 13-7 in the first period, the Irish surged back in the second. With nearly four minutes gone in the second period, Spartan skater Adam Goodsir got called for holding. One minute into the power play, Notre Dame’s Hunter Strand tied it at one.

Although Notre Dame ramped up the pressure, the Spartans continued to pepper shots onto Galajda with 27 after two periods.

“I’d say all year,” when Cole was asked if it was the best game they have played in the last three to four weeks. “That’s a good hockey team, you don’t outshoot Notre Dame very often, and we did in all three periods.”

Senior captain Dennis Cesana commited a tripping penalty early into the last frame, and the Irish capitalized after a tic tac toe passing play on the power play to claim the lead at 2-1.

MSU forward Kristoff Papp (13) skates next to defenseman Dennis Cesana (22)/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

“It’s a tough one, giving up two power play goals, but overall, I think we played really well,” said Lewandowski.

With the clock ticking down and tension rising in the arena, Slaggert gave a nudge to Pierce Charleson, the Spartans’ goaltender, which led to an eruption between the two teams and resulted in Cole Krygier and Graham Slaggert being disqualified from the contest for fighting. Both will be unable to participate in Saturday’s rematch. 

MSU pulled Charleson with 1:16 to play in the third period. After a couple gritty chances, the Spartans could not hammer it home and fell to the Irish 2-1.

“Get rested, get ready, and let’s come back and play even better tomorrow. We said we ran out of time tonight, well we got 60 more minutes tomorrow,” Cole said.

The Spartans take on the Fighting Irish in Game 2 of the weekend series Saturday at 7:00 p.m. EST.