Icers take on big series against Notre Dame
Freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand awaits a face-off in the Spartans’ defensive zone Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Wolverines defeated the Spartans 5-2 during the Great Lakes Invitational third place game. Adam Toolin/The State News
As the losses continue to pile up for the MSU hockey team, the Spartans are looking at this weekend’s home series against one of the country’s top teams as an opportunity to turn the season around.
No. 2 Notre Dame (14-5-0 overall, 10-1-0-0 CCHA) will travel to East Lansing for a two-game series on Friday and Saturday to give MSU (5-12-3 overall, 4-9-1-0 CCHA) its second home CCHA weekend this season.
“We have a good opponent … they’re coming here for two games and this can really, I feel, be a turning point, especially if we can get two wins out of this,” sophomore forward Brent Darnell said. “It can really send some good momentum our way.”
The first time the teams met this season was Dec. 7-8, 2012 at Notre Dame, in which the Fighting Irish came out with a pair of wins.
Despite two goals from Darnell the first night, Notre Dame prevailed with a 3-2 win.
The goal differential was much steeper the following night, as Notre Dame steamrolled MSU, 5-1.
The latter part of that series was the last time MSU junior goaltender Will Yanakeff saw the net, and freshman netminder Jake Hildebrand has been given the nod since.
“When we played down there, the first game was close and the second game was closer than the score would indicate, in my mind,” senior forward Chris Forfar said. “They’re a great team. They have great goaltenders, great forwards, skilled forwards and they’re going to give us all we can handle. I think it will elevate the level of play that we as a team have.”
MSU is looking for redemption in this weekend’s series, but a solid Fighting Irish roster stands in its way.
Notre Dame leads the CCHA in conference standings, and also is the top-ranked offensive team in the league. Its team defense is good enough to place the Fighting Irish at second in the CCHA and third in the country.
Notre Dame goaltender Steven Summerhays completes the puzzle, as he is second in the CCHA in goals against average (1.38), tied with Hildebrand for second in save percentage (.942) and first in winning percentage (.889).
“They’re big, strong, fast, skilled and physical,” head coach Tom Anastos said.
“They’re a good team; they’re one of the top in the country. We’ll have our hands full in that regard. More importantly than that, Michigan State has to leave it all on the ice every single shift, and if we can do that, it’s easier to live with the results. That’s where we are in our program today and we have to make sure that’s very consistent.”
Matchups between the two teams always prove to be intense battles, and the Spartans are eager to take the ice and start the second half of the season on the right foot.
“We’ve been getting good crowds lately, we can feed off of that a little bit,” Darnell said.
“Even at football when Notre Dame comes to town it’s a big game. We understand what we need to do and we just have to go out and do it.”