The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team is in action this weekend, welcoming the Michigan State Spartans to South Bend for their final series before winter break. After splits of their last two series, Notre Dame will be looking for a sweep to end the first half of their season on a high note.
Where, When, How to Watch
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
When: Saturday, Dec 19, 6:30pm ET (Game 1) and Sunday, Dec. 20, 5:00pm ET (Game 2)
How to Watch: NBCSN and streaming on NBCSports.com (Game 1); NBCSports Chicago/Philly and streaming on NBCSports.com (Game 2)
Notre Dame has had their ups and downs so far this season, but they come into this series at 4-4 on the season and 2-2 in their last four games. Despite their record, one of the biggest problems for Notre Dame so far this season has been consistency, when they’ve been good they’ve looked like one of the best teams in the country, but then they’ve turned around and struggled just as much.
In net, Dylan St. Cyr started both games for Notre Dame last weekend and looked very good. St. Cyr gave up only three goals last weekend, all on the power play, and one was questionable at best. St. Cyr will need to continue that strong play for longer than a two game series, but it was a welcome development last weekend and he will certainly be given the chance to extend his run.
On defense the Irish continued their strong play, giving up no goals at even strength. The defense has been a strong point for Notre Dame for years and they continue to put the team in positions to win consistently. We also saw some encouraging signs from the Notre Dame offense as the underclassmen on the team continue to get involved in creating and scoring goals. The biggest improvement Notre Dame can make is on the power play. They’ve scored on only 2 of 16 chances (12.5%) this year and improving that rate will go a long way to curing their offensive woes.
Michigan State comes into this weekend having not played in two weeks after their games last weekend were cancelled. Opposite of Notre Dame, goaltending has been the strongest part of the team for Michigan State as junior goaltender Drew DeRitter comes into play with a .931SV% and 1.98 GAA. They also kill off 80% of their penalties, so goals might be hard to come by for the Irish. Meanwhile on offense, the Spartans shoot the puck a lot. They are averaging 35.5 shots per game, which is fifth highest nationally. Notre Dame will have to weather that storm defensively but the good thing is that those shot numbers haven’t necessarily translated to goals and Notre Dame will look to continue that trend.
After two straight series splits, I see no reason why this time will be any different. Michigan State is still a bit of an unknown having played the fewest games in the Big Ten and Notre Dame has been up and down all season. I just don’t see either team winning two games in this series.