With the regular season in the rear view mirror, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will kick off the Big Ten Tournament this weekend with a best of three series against the Michigan State Spartans. The series will be hosted by the Irish, who finished the regular season as the second best team in the Big Ten.
WHERE, WHEN, AND HOW TO WATCH
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
When: Friday, Mar. 8, 7:00 P.M. ET (Game 1), Saturday, Mar. 9, 7:00 P.M. ET (Game 2) and Sunday, Mar. 10, 7:00 PM ET (Game 3, if necessary)
Watch: Big Ten Network Plus
The time has come again for another Big Ten Tournament. Things will be a bit different for Jeff Jackson’s team this time around. Last year, the Irish clinched the top seed, which includes the all-important bye during quarterfinals week, rather early. They didn’t kick off the tournament until the semifinals, when their opponents, the Penn State Nittany Lions, had already played two tough games against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Despite a disappointing loss to the Nittany Lions this past Saturday, the Irish clinched the two seed in the conference thanks to some help from the rest of the conference. Finishing a point ahead of the Gophers allowed Notre Dame to play the lowest seed in the quarterfinals, a Michigan State team that they haven’t lost to all season.
The last time Notre Dame and Michigan State met was at Compton, where the Irish defeated the Spartans 6-3 and tied 1-1. Prior to that, the Spartans were swept in East Lansing, MI by the Irish at Munn Ice Arena. Michigan State is coming off an upset victory over the Big Ten regular season champion Ohio State Buckeyes, 3-2 in Columbus last Saturday.
For the second straight year, Michigan State comes into the conference tournament as the seventh seed. Last year, they were sent home by an overtime goal in the quarterfinals against the Buckeyes. The Spartans have not won a conference tournament since 2006, which is the second longest drought in school history.
Last year, it took a thriller against Penn State and an epic overtime victory against the Michigan Wolverines for the Irish to win the Big Ten in their inaugural season. Most of the contributors on this year’s team, including goaltender Cale Morris, experienced last year’s Big Ten Tournament run, and know what it will take to repeat. Two victories this weekend will advance the Irish to the semifinals where they would play the second highest advancing seed at home on March 16th.
Notre Dame has not lost to Michigan State all year. The Spartans have scored just six goals against the Irish in four games this season. The two most important games of the season won’t be the time to start. I predict a sweep for the Irish.