Sunday, December 5, 2021

Preview: Spartan hockey begins 5-game home-stand to end season with Notre Dame in town

February 26, 2021
<p>Then-sophomore defender Dennis Cesana (right) and Notre Dame center Jake Pivonka both attempt to bring down the puck. The Spartans tied with the Fighting Irish, 1-1, at Munn Ice Arena on Nov. 22, 2019. </p>

Then-sophomore defender Dennis Cesana (right) and Notre Dame center Jake Pivonka both attempt to bring down the puck. The Spartans tied with the Fighting Irish, 1-1, at Munn Ice Arena on Nov. 22, 2019.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

After wrapping up their final road trip of the season last weekend, the MSU hockey team (7-13-2) begins a five game home-stand to end the regular season Friday and Saturday with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-12-2) in town.

Notre Dame brings to East Lansing a streak of four games where they are winless. In games against Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Fighting Irish are 0-3-1 with their last win coming Feb. 6 at Ohio State.

Interestingly enough, Notre Dame has reverse home/road splits in 2020-21 with a 3-10-1 home record, the site where the Big Ten Tournament will be played next month, and a 7-2-1 record on the road. Their road resume is quite impressive with sweeps at Ohio State, Minnesota and Michigan.

“I do not see a huge difference other than I think they have had some timely scoring and have got out ahead on the road and be able to get into a real good defensive situation,” Head Coach Danton Cole said on Tuesday. “... It is definitely a weird thing because they usually have a pretty good home ice advantage and play fairly well on the road, but to have that kind of split is an oddity. It just shows you that they can play a certain style of game that can make it hard on the home team.”

The Spartans played a role in the Fighting Irish’s home woes when they last met in December in what has been one of the best series played by MSU this year. The two teams played to a 1-1 tie in Game 1, but Game 2 was a thrilling contest where Michigan State took home an overtime 4-3 victory thanks to a game-tying goal by senior forward Tommy Apap with less than a minute to play and then an overtime winner by senior defenseman Tommy Miller.

“I think the big thing with Notre Dame is, and this always gets kind of redundant with the Big Ten schedule, but you better be ready at the drop of the puck," Cole said. "The immediacy of it has to be there. Dr. (Lionel) Rosen talks about the three I’s: immediacy, intensity and intelligence. You better have those three when you are playing them. When we have had success, whether it was against them or somebody else, we have had all three of those things working for us.”

One player, in particular, the Spartans will have to be ready for is junior forward Alex Steeves. The Eden Prairie, Minnesota, native has 13 goals on the season, tied for 5th best in the country, to go along with 13 assists. One goal and one assist comes from MSU and Notre Dame’s series earlier this season.

Senior Dylan St. Cyr mans the net for Notre Dame, getting the starting nod in 13 of the last 14 games. St. Cyr checks in the middle of the pack nationally with a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .910 save percentage. The Spartans have yet to see St. Cyr this year as sophomore Ryan Bischel started in both games in December.

Otherwise, Notre Dame is a pretty well-rounded team with no glaring weaknesses on paper. They are about average in every team statistic. That recipe though has resulted in wins, 10 to be exact, leading UND to a current tie for third place in the Big Ten with Michigan at 29 points.

Following the conclusion of Saturday's game, MSU's eight seniors will be recognized in a postgame ceremony.

The puck drops for Game 1 at Munn Ice Arena at 6 p.m. Friday and for Game 2 at 3 p.m. Saturday. Both games will be broadcasted on Big Ten Plus.

Big Ten Tournament Update

The Big Ten announced on Thursday updates to the men’s hockey Big Ten Tournament. Originally scheduled for March 18-20, the tournament will now be held March 14-16 “in order to ease compression between the regular season and postseason tournaments in the interest of the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and officials.”

All games will be held at the Compton Family Ice Arena at Notre Dame with the first quarterfinal game being played at 12 p.m. March 14 in a single-elimination format. Because of the number of games that have been postponed, seeding will be determined by Big Ten win percentage with shootout wins counting as a tie.

As it stands right now, Michigan State would hold the last seed in the tournament as they sit in the last place with 15 points. Ohio State is right above MSU in 6th place with 19 points, but also with two more games played.

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