The #11/12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team, fresh off another split series last weekend against the Wisconsin Badgers, travel to East Lansing, Michigan this weekend for a series against the Michigan State Spartans. This is Notre Dame’s final road trip of the regular season before finishing up at home against the Michigan Wolverines.
Where, When, How to Watch
- Where: Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing, MI
- When: Friday, February 18, 7pm ET (Game 1); Saturday, February 19, 7pm ET (Game 2)
- How to Watch: Streaming on BTN Plus
Notre Dame enters this weekend with no movement in their postseason positioning after last weekend. They still sit fourth in the Big Ten, and are now guaranteed at least a top four finish with an outside chance of more still remaining. That top four finish in the regular season standings guarantees them at least one home series in the Big Ten tournament but nothing beyond that. They are also still tied for twelfth in the PairWise rankings, which puts them right on the bubble with only sixteen teams making the NCAA Tournament. Every conference champion that is ranked ahead of them provides better odds for the Irish, but they’ll need to move into the top 10 to be guaranteed a spot before automatic bids are handed out.
Last weekend was a tough one for the Irish, splitting a series that they had every opportunity to sweep. The biggest culprit was goaltending, which has been their biggest strength for much of the season. In their game one loss, Notre Dame allowed only 15 shots but still gave up 5 goals. One was an empty netter, but that is still an awful scoring percentage to allow. Matthew Galajda bounced back in game two though saving 30 shots and allowing only 2 goals. The opening game last weekend certainly seems like an outlier given how the rest of the season has gone, but it also emphasizes the need for consistency, especially in goal, at this point in the season and with postseason hopes on the line.
Michigan State comes into this series in last place in the Big Ten. They are in a similar place as Wisconsin was last weekend in that they are near the bottom of the rankings in goals scored on the season and near the top for most goals allowed. Senior goaltender Drew DeRidder is strong in net, and has been for years, but the rest of the team around him is struggling to provide much support and the team results don’t match his individual performance. The Spartans bleed scoring opportunities with only a 42.7 Corsi For%, which drops even lower in close games. They are shooting only 7.8% overall, 6.5% at even strength and 6.3% in close games. Meaning if Notre Dame can stay out of the penalty box their chances of allowing a goal go down significantly, although the Spartan power play isn’t world beater either, scoring at a 22.7% rate. For comparison, Notre Dame has a 52.9 CF% and a 9.7 SH% in all situations.
The key to being Michigan State is going to be beating DeRidder. It isn’t an easy task, but Notre Dame should be able to do it enough to take advantage of the Spartans’ weaknesses. The Irish have the talent to take both games and, with an 8-4 record on the road, proven that they can win away from home this season. More importantly though, while these games are certainly not must win, a sweep would do a lot for Notre Dame’s postseason positioning and that is strong motivation.