After a big final weekend that saw them move up in the conference standings, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team begin the Big Ten tournament at home with a best of three series against the Michigan State Spartans. Last weekend Notre Dame won both games against the Michigan Wolverines to secure the #4 seed in the conference tournament. That was just enough to get them their first three games in South Bend but it will still be an uphill battle for them to make the run necessary to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Where, When, How to Watch
- Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend, IN
- When: Friday, March 3, 7pm ET (Game 1); Saturday, March 4, 4:30pm ET (Game 2); Sunday, March 5, 6pm ET (Game 3 if necessary)
- How to Watch: All three games will be televised on FS2
Last weekend Notre Dame managed to win both games to get home ice. Both games went to overtime though, meaning the Irish didn’t get all the points available to them and could only move up to fourth place in the Big Ten standings. That means that they host the #5 seed Michigan State Spartans. While moving up to fourth got Notre Dame home ice the inability to get any higher means that if seeds hold they will face the top seeded Minnesota Gophers next round.
Notre Dame also moved up to #14 in the Pairwise rankings after last weekend, creeping closer into range for a tournament bid but not quite there yet. They’ll need to get to at least 12 and probably even closer to 10 to be in a comfortable spot for a bid. A win in the opening round will help but it may not get them all the way there, so a win against Minnesota will probably be necessary unless they can grab the automatic Big Ten bid.
This series will be the second time that Notre Dame and Michigan State have played each other in a month. Last time they played in early February is a series that Notre Dame will most definitely like to forget. In the two games in East Lansing, Michigan State beat Notre Dame twice and outscored the Irish 6-2. Better results will be needed this weekend to keep the season going for Notre Dame.
Earlier in the season in South Bend the Irish and Spartans split their two game series with Notre Dame winning game one before Michigan State took game two in a shootout. In that series it was Notre Dame who outscored the Spartans 6-1. With only one seed separating two teams who have played so evenly matched this season the home ice advantage can be a big factor for Notre Dame.
Unfortunately for Irish fans this series has three games written all over it. A sweep would do a lot for Notre Dame’s tournament hopes but the most important thing is to win this series and live to play for another round. With home ice advantage I like Notre Dame’s chances to advance but it won’t be easy.