WHAT: Michigan State (12-17-5) versus Notre Dame (18-13-3) in first-round, best-of-three series of the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
WHEN: Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if necessary) at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Lefty Smith Rink at Compton Family Ice Arena (5,022), South Bend.
STREAMING: BTN Plus.
RADIO: WZOC-FM (94.3) and UND.com.
RANKINGS: Notre Dame is tied for 16th (with UMass Lowell) in USCHO.com (media) poll, No. 15 in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine (coaches) poll and No. 15 in Pairwise Rankings that mimic those NCAA selection committee will use to seed 16-team postseason tournament. … Michigan State is No. 27 in Pairwise.
RIVALRY: Irish had 3-1, 2-1 sweep at Michigan State Nov. 16-17 and 6-3 victory and 1-1 overtime tie and shootout win in South Bend Jan. 25-26. … Spartans lead series 63-46 with 12 ties since their first meeting in 1926 — a 3-1 Irish victory at University Rink in East Lansing. … Irish coach Jeff Jackson has two degrees from Michigan State (1978 communications, 1979 education) and coached current Spartans head coach Danton Cole in junior hockey.
RESUMES: Michigan State has most productive line in college hockey with junior center Patrick Khodorenko (18-19-37), sophomore right wing Mitchell Lewandowski (16-18-34) and junior left wing Taro Hirose (15-35-50), who leads nation in scoring. … Freshman Dennis Cesana (3-21-24) leads defense in front of junior goalie John Lethemon (3.43 goals-against average) and freshman counterpart Drew DeRidder (3.23). … Michigan State’s power play is converting at 23.5 (10th nationally) just ahead of Notre Dame’s 23.2 percent. … At 7.3 penalty minutes per game, Irish are least penalized team in country. … In the last two seasons, Irish goalie Cale Morris is 6-1-1 against Michigan State with a 1.74 goals-against average and .947 save percentage. … Junior Cam Morrison is 5-5-10 in 12 playoff games, including the game-winning goal in Notre Dame’s 3-2 overtime victory against Ohio State in 2018 Big Ten championship game. … Defenseman Bobby Nardella paces Irish in scoring with 31 points (7 goals, 24 assists), one ahead of Dylan Malmquist (10-20). … Freshman Michael Graham and junior Cal Burke have 11 goals each. … Jackson, who coached Lake Superior to pair of NCAA championships, needs four victories to reach 500 (496-242-82).
QUOTING JACKSON: (Playoff hockey) “You have to embrace it; you can’t be afraid of it. You have to attack the game and not play conservatively. Everything is elevated. Being emotionally engaged and focused is probably the primary thing.”
(Michigan State) “They are a much improved team than what they were last year. Their top line is probably the top line in college hockey. That line by itself can make a lot of difference. They are going to give us all we can handle. It’s going to be a challenging series.”
— John Fineran, Tribune Correspondent