PREVIEW: Michigan State hockey prepares for No. 11 Notre Dame
Who: Michigan State hockey at No. 11 Notre Dame
When: 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25 and 7 p.m Saturday, Jan. 26
Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend, IN
TV/Streams: NBC Sports Chicago / NBC Sports App
Radio: Spartan Sports Network
Michigan State (9-12-3, 5-7-2 Big Ten) enters another important weekend in Big Ten play, as they travel to South Bend to face 11th-ranked Notre Dame (13-8-2, 6-6-1 Big Ten).
The Fighting Irish come back from Wisconsin after recording a win and a tie against the Badgers, placing them in fourth place in the conference. As the Spartans gained significant ground in the conference with a pair of wins against second place Minnesota last weekend, this weekend in South Bend arguably carries more weight.
Currently sitting in fifth place, the Spartans could break the top half of a tight Big Ten race, as just four points separates second place from seventh place.
Junior forward Mitchell Lewandowski underscored this weekend’s importance immediately after finishing the sweep of Minnesota.
“You still have to treat next weekend like a regular weekend. We haven't really proven anything,” Lewandowski said. “The Big Ten's so close that, if we lose two games, we'll be right back in seventh. So there's the never get too high, never get too low mentality.”
Notre Dame posts the second-best scoring defense in the conference, allowing 2.39 goals per game on the season.
“They're are a defensive-type team. They like to shut it down — so do we. We like to play the right way. They like to play the right way as well,” junior captain Sam Saliba said. “Nothing's easy. You have to go 200 feet. You have to be on the right side of guys and they do a good job of that, so we expect the same this weekend.”
On the other end of the ice, Notre Dame sits at fourth in scoring offense while MSU is tied for fifth.
Penalties will be an area of concern for the Spartans this weekend. While averaging 12.8 penalty minutes per game, the highest rate in the conference, MSU has now allowed a power play goal in each of the last 15 games. The Spartans will need to reduce time in the penalty box to stay competitive this weekend.
Junior goaltender John Lethemon started the season platooning in net with freshman Drew DeRidder. It seems Lethemon has claimed the starting role for the time being, as he has started and won the last two games for MSU. It will be interesting to observe if coach Danton Cole will continue to stick with Lethemon moving forward.
The Spartans are playing as well as they have all season, as they were able put up ten total goals against a Minnesota team that only allows 2.7 goals per game. They’ll continue the hot streak into South Bend to take the first game of the series.
Michigan State 4, Notre Dame 2