After scoring the game-winning goal in last year's national championship game, Abdelkader once again came up big late in a game.
Abdelkader's goal with under two minutes left broke a 1-1 tie and won the game for the Spartans over No.6 Notre Dame.
After the puck was centered in front, Irish goalie Jordan Pearce made the initial save. But the puck was eventually knocked into the air, creating a frenzy in front of the net. When the puck came down in the crease, Abdelkader poked in his eighth goal of the season.
"I know I got a stick on it but I think he (Abdelkader) got the last poke in," said Chris Mueller. "It was a good battle in front, we're thankful it went in, and we're thankful that Justin (Abdelkader) and Mike (Ratchuk) didn't hit it down with a high stick, they both took two swings at it and missed it, so good thing they didn't play baseball."
Coach Rick Comley called it his team's best game of the year, as the No.10 Spartans (14-5-3, 10-2-1 CCHA) knocked off their CCHA rival in the first game of a home-and-home series with the Irish (18-7-0, 11-4 CCHA), which concludes on Sunday in South Bend.
"So many games we've gone into with the expectation we were going to win, and this game was a toss-up going in and I think it had good emotion," said Comley. "It was physical but not stupid and I thought it was very good."
"It's been a tough year for us, and so for them to beat a team of that caliber, Sunday's game will be really tough and now the pressure is on them on Sunday, but we needed a win against a good team like that," added Comley.
It was the first meeting between the two teams since the NCAA Quarterfinals in last year's Frozen Four as MSU knocked off the Irish 2-1.
After a scoreless first period, Matt Schepke's odd-angle shot from the corner sneaked by Irish goalie Jordan Pearce and gave the Spartans the first goal.
Notre Dame tied the game at 11:44 of the second period when Kevin Deeth poked the puck past a scramble of players in the goal crease behind Jeff Lerg.
Nick Sucharski added an empty-net goal to cap the game off, 3-1 for MSU.
"We finally got a bounce, we battled hard, and were scrambling and we were just battling. There was a minute or two left and once we got that second goal we weren't losing that hockey game," said Mueller.
Goalie Jeff Lerg made 30 saves to improve to 13-5-3 and stopped Irish sophomore Ryan Thang on a big breakaway late in the second period to keep the game tied.
"He was really good tonight; maybe his most consistent game this year from start to finish," said Comley.He has played really well for us this year, but I thought they had some chances they couldn't get a handle on but he made a couple of really good saves."
The Spartans will need another strong performance on Sunday as they travel to South Bend to play in front of a hostile crowd.
"I think they will come out hard," said Mueller. "So do we do anything different, I don't think so because I think we played a really good hockey game and I guarantee it will be that way on Sunday."
"This was a playoff atmosphere and we took a really big step and our guys just rallied together and it definitely was a playoff atmosphere. You couldn't ask for anything more, it was a picture perfect crowd," added Mueller.
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