The road ended in Colorado Springs. Michigan State will not repeat as National Champions, losing to CCHA rival Notre Dame 3-1 Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
For the Irish, the game was sweet payback for last season, when MSU knocked them out of the tournament in a regional final on their way to their first championship in 20 years. Notre Dame will play in their first Frozen Four in team history in two weeks against Michigan.
Irish center Christian Hanson broke a deadlocked game early in the second period to put ND up 1-0, assisted by Christiaan Minella.
The Spartans fired back six minutes later with a Justin Abdelkader goal, getting help from Tim Crowder and Tim Kennedy. But that's all MSU could muster on the scoreboard.
Goaltender Jeff Lerg, who made 41 saves the evening before in a win over Colorado College, made 23 saves in the loss and kept the Green and White in the game for most of the evening.
The Irish ultimately caught up with the stellar play of the Spartan net-minder late in the third period. They first deflected a puck past him to break the 1-1 tie, then a laser from defenseman Teddy Ruth beat Lerg high, cementing the final score. Special teams did not factor into the game — all goals in the match were even-strength.
Although Lerg, Kennedy, Crowder, Abdelkader and a host of other talented players return to climb the mountain again next season, the Spartans will surely miss senior forwards Bryan Lerg and Chris Mueller and defenseman Dan Vukovic and Jeff Dunne. Forward Zac McMclellan also graduates.
The Spartans made their third straight appearance in a regional final and finished with a 25-12-5 record.
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Spartan Championship Reign Ends
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