The Michigan State Spartans are heading to South Bend, Indiana to play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Friday night. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time and will air on NBC Sports Network. The two play each other again o nSaturday night at 7:00 p.m, also on NBCSN.
A two-game series against Notre Dame is largely important for a few reasons. First, the Fighting Irish have a good team. ND is 11-4 this season, and is No. 8 in both the USCHO.com poll and the USA Today poll.
On another note, this is a Big Ten matchup. A win in one of these two games would keep the Spartans in the hunt for fourth place in the Big Ten. Currently, No. 3 Michigan leads the Big Ten with 20 points; No. 10 Minnesota is second with 19 points; No. 17 Ohio State is third with 15 points; No. 8 Notre Dame is fourth with 13 points; the unranked Spartans trail Notre Dame with 12 points.
A win against the No. 8-ranked team could potentially move the Spartans into the USCHO.com top-20. Last week, Michigan State received three votes.
Notre Dame is looking to get back on track against MSU, as it suffered a series split last week against Ohio State last weekend. Meanwhile, Michigan State is coming off of a strong victory in the last game of a Penn State series that started off on a bad foot. Sophomore goaltender Pierce Charleson made 50 saves in a 4-3 victory last Saturday, the most by any Division I goalie this season. The performance made Charleson the Big Ten’s Third Star of the Week.
Senior goalie Drew DeRidder will likely be in net tonight, though Michigan State has split goaltending duties in five of the eight weekends so far this season. DeRidder had 88 saves during both games against Wisconsin last month.
Michigan State is coming off of a Penn State series in which defenseman made up for half of the goal production. Dennis Cesana, Cole Krygier and Christian Krygier all had goals, while Cesana, Christian Krygier and Nash Neinhuis all had assists.
Cesana has been the Big Ten’s top scoring defenseman for the last three seasons with 65 career points overall. He earned preseason All-Big Ten honors this fall. The Spartans may need to lean on him this weekend.
As mentioned, both games this weekend are MSU’s last Big Ten games of 2021 and last before the holiday break as well. The Spartans come home to host both No. 4 Western Michigan and Michigan Tech for the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30. Both games will air on B1G+.