Wednesday, September 23, 2020

PREVIEW: With Big Ten standings as close as ever, MSU hockey wraps up regular season against Notre Dame

February 28, 2020
<p>Senior forward Sam Saliba shoots the puck against Notre Dame. The Spartans were defeated by the Fighting Irish, 2-1, at Munn Ice Arena on Nov. 22, 2019. </p>

Senior forward Sam Saliba shoots the puck against Notre Dame. The Spartans were defeated by the Fighting Irish, 2-1, at Munn Ice Arena on Nov. 22, 2019.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

The Michigan State hockey team (14-17-1) will wrap up the regular season this weekend, looking to snap a four-game losing streak as they travel to South Bend, Indiana to take on Notre Dame (14-12-6).

The Big Ten is still up for grabs and, while the Spartans can’t finish in first place, they can still earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the Big Ten tournament by finishing in the top four. Here are the current standings heading into the weekend, including what team everyone is going up against.

1) No. 9 Penn State - 41 pts - done

T-2) No. 10 Ohio State - 37 pts - vs. Wisconsin

T-2) No. 18 Minnesota - 37 pts - vs. Michigan

4) Notre Dame - 35 pts - vs. Michigan State

5) Michigan - 33 pts - @ No. 18 Minnesota

6) Michigan State - 31 pts - @ Notre Dame

7) Wisconsin - 20 pts - @ No. 10 Ohio State

“You have to be unwavering in your belief and get right back on that horse,” coach Danton Cole said, according to a statement from the university athletics website. “Two weeks ago we were in first place. We’re not a lot different than that team. We battled through some stuff this weekend and got through that. What we have in front of us is what we have to be focused on.”

MSU split with the Fighting Irish when the two teams met back in late November, losing in a shootout and winning in regulation the next night. Coming into that first series against the Spartans, Notre Dame had won nine of their first 11 games of the season. The split with Michigan State propelled them into a five-game losing streak, putting an end to their hot start.

The Irish have been playing much better as of late, going 4-1-2 over their past seven games and most recently sweeping Michigan on the road. Their offensive production has been evenly spread out, with senior Cam Morrison and sophomore Alex Steeves leading the way with 23 and 24 points, respectively. Senior goaltender Cale Morris has been solid in net, posting a .918 save percentage and 2.482 GAA.

“It’s always a hard fought battle with Notre Dame,” senior defenseman Butrus Ghafari said. “They’re very defensive and they kind of wait for you to make mistakes in the neutral zone, especially. In the offensive zone, they jump all over you, so it’s just a very strategic game.”

A lot is going to have to happen for the green and white to finish in the top four of the Big Ten Standings. The Spartans, at the very least, will need to sweep Notre Dame this weekend. If they are able to do that, one of two things must happen: Ohio State must lose both of their games at home against last-place Wisconsin or have Michigan get a maximum of four points against Minnesota.

Friday night’s game will get underway at 7 p.m. and will be televised on NBCSN, while Saturday’s game is set to start at 6 p.m. and can be streamed on the NBC app.


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