After a huge sweep of the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor last weekend, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will host the Michigan State Spartans in the final series of the regular season. The Irish have only lost once in February and are still within grasp of a share of the Big Ten regular season crown.
Where: When, and How to Watch
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, IN
When: Friday, Feb. 28, 7:00 PM ET (Game 1), Saturday, Feb. 29, 6:00 PM ET (Game 2)
How to Watch: NBCSN & TSN (Game 1) and NBC Sports Philadelphia+ (Game 2), or stream both games on the NBC app
What a difference a month makes. It wasn’t long ago that the season looked like a disaster for the Fighting Irish, while the Spartans looked like they were on their way to a bye in the Big Ten Tournament. As we now enter the final weekend of the regular season, Notre Dame comes into this matchup having played outstanding in the month of February. Michigan State, on the other hand, are losers of four straight games, all of which were in their home state.
The catalyst for Notre Dame’s turnaround is once again the man between the pipes, Cale Morris. The senior netminder has posted 1.58 goals-against average to go with a .942 save percentage in February. He played exceptionally well in Ann Arbor, stopping 34 of 35 shots on Saturday and earning the shutout the following night. The performance earned Morris the Big Ten Second Star of the Week. He, along with fellow seniors Mike O’Leary, Tory Dello, Cam Morrison and Cal Burke will be honored on Saturday.
His counterpart has enjoyed a strong season as well. Michigan State goaltender John Lethemon enters the series with 2.15 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage in 29 games. He’s been relied upon quite often for the Spartans, who are the lowest scoring team in the Big Ten. He was spectacular against the Irish earlier this season, stopping 59 of 62 shots.
In order for the Irish to clinch a share of the Big Ten regular season title, they will need to sweep the Spartans, and get some help by the Ohio State Buckeyes and Minnesota Golden Gophers both getting swept. The conference leading Penn State Nittany Lions are idle this week, so they are locked in at 41 points, while the Buckeyes and Gophers are at 37, and the Irish are at 35.
Jeff Jackson couldn’t have asked for a better time to face his alma mater at home. The Spartans are backing into the final regular season series, while the Irish are playing their best hockey in quite some time. Cale Morris and the Notre Dame defense should have no problem keeping Michigan State off the scoreboard at Compton, and I predict the Irish to send their seniors out with a sweep.