No. 17 Notre Dame hockey tries to keep streaks alive heading to No. 19 Michigan State

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent
Notre Dame forward Jack Adams (22) looks for the loose puck in front of Michigan State goaltender Dylan St. Cyr (37) during the Michigan State-Notre Dame NCAA hockey game on Saturday, October 29, 2022, at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.

The road to home-ice advantage in the Big Ten Hockey Tournament for No. 17 Notre Dame continues on the road this weekend at head coach Jeff Jackson’s alma mater Michigan State.

Jackson has a 15-10-4 mark in the Clarence L. “Biggie” Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing as a head coach at Lake Superior State and Notre Dame, and four of those victories have come in the past two seasons — 2-1 and 4-2 last season on Feb. 18 and 19 and a pair of 2-0 shutouts on Feb. 26-27 in 2021 by goaltender Dylan St. Cyr, a 2021 Notre Dame graduate.

Last series:Irish use power play to sweep Badgers but lose Rolston to injury

St. Cyr, who played last season at Quinnipiac, returned to his home state to play for new Spartan coach Adam Nightingale and earn a graduate degree. Earlier this season, St. Cyr followed up a 5-0 loss on Oct. 28 at Notre Dame to Irish goalie (and good buddy) Ryan Bischel with a 39-save performance in a 1-1 tie which became a 2-1 shootout victory when St. Cyr stopped the last two Irish attempts by Jackson Pierson and Ryder Rolston.

Jackson expects more of the same from the No. 19 Spartans (13-13-2 overall, 7-9-2 Big Ten for 24 points and a fifth-place tie with Michigan) when they play host to the Fighting Irish (13-12-3, 8-8-2 Big Ten for 26 points and fourth place).

“They are a good hockey team,” Jackson said. “They gave us everything we could handle when we played here, especially the second night. It’s going to be a challenging series.”

Notre Dame comes in off its first Big Ten sweep of the season — 5-3 and 3-1 victories over visiting Wisconsin. 

“This (sweep) couldn’t have come at a better time,” Irish captain and defenseman Nick Leivermann said. “Everything seems to be clicking. Special teams have (not) been better ... guys are starting to find the net.”

St. Cyr and the Spartans are a little shellshocked after going to Minneapolis and suffering 8-0 and 6-3 setbacks to the now top-ranked Gophers. St. Cyr started both games, was pulled after allowing five goals Friday and surrendered all six Saturday.

“Everyone has had their issues with Minnesota,” said Jackson, whose team lost three of four to the Gophers. “They (the Spartans) didn’t lose to Penn State which is hard to do.”

In its last home series Jan. 13-14, Michigan State earned a 3-2 overtime win and 4-4 overtime tie/shootout win over the No. 9-ranked Nittany Lions to improve to 9-4-1 at Munn which is expecting sellout crowds of 6,555 for the Irish.

“Every series the rest of the way is going to be important,” Jackson understated. 

With six games remaining for the Fighting Irish in the regular season — Friday and Saturday against MSU, Feb. 10-11 at home against No. 7-ranked Ohio State and Feb. 24-25 at No. 6-ranked Michigan — it’s anyone’s guess how their regular season will play out.

Finishing first in the Big Ten is virtually impossible for Notre Dame. The Irish would have to sweep their remaining three series to finish with 44 points. Minnesota already has 43 points and needs just one point in its remaining six games to gain a higher seed for the Big Ten Postseason Tournament based on its three victories over the Irish.

Currently Notre Dame’s 26 points are one behind Ohio State and Penn State and two ahead of Michigan and Michigan State in the standings. 

The teams finishing second, third and fourth in the Big Ten regular season will earn home-ice advantage for the best-of-three first round, with No. 2 seed playing No. 7 seed (likely Wisconsin, which has just nine points), No. 3 playing No. 6 and No. 4 playing No. 5.

Last season, Notre Dame finished in third place and drew No. 6-seed Wisconsin for a first-round series at the Compton Family Ice Arena. After losing 3-1 in the opener, Notre Dame rallied with 3-2 and 4-2 victories to oust the Badgers. Notre Dame then lost its single-game semifinal 2-1 at No. 2-seed Michigan, which ended up winning the Big Ten tournament title and the league’s NCAA automatic bid with its 4-3 victory at top-seed Minnesota.

Teams must finish with a .500 record or better after Big Ten Tournament play to gain a bid to the 16-team NCAA tournament. Notre Dame currently has a PairWise Tournament rating of 14 (MSU is 18) and likely needs one of 12 or better. Bids will be announced March 20.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Michigan State Spartans

When/Where: Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. at Clarence L. “Biggie” Munn Ice Arena (6,555) in East Lansing, Mich.

Radio: WZOC-FM (94.3) and

TV/Streaming: Big Ten Plus Friday and Big Ten Network Saturday.

Records: Notre Dame is 13-12-3 overall, 8-8-2 for 26 points and fourth place in Big Ten. … Michigan State is 13-13-2 overall, 7-9-2 for 24 points and fifth-place tie with Michigan in Big Ten.

Last weekend: Notre Dame swept Big Ten home series from Wisconsin 5-3 and 3-1. … Michigan State lost Big Ten away series 8-0 and 6-3 to Minnesota.

Big Ten standings:1.Minnesota 14-3-1, 43 points (20-7-1); 2T. Ohio State 9-7-0, 27 points (16-9-1); 2T. Penn State 8-9-1, 27 points (18-9-1); 4. Notre Dame 8-8-2, 26 points (13-12-3); 5T. Michigan 8-8-0, 24 points (16-9-1); 5T. Michigan State 7-9-2, 24 points (13-13-2); 7. Wisconsin 3-13-0, 9 points (10-16-0).

Rankings: Notre Dame is ranked No. 17 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine coaches’ poll and No. 20 in the media poll. … Michigan State is No. 19 in coaches’ poll and No. 17 in media poll. … In the NCAA Tournament PairWise Comparison Rankings, Notre Dame is No. 14 and Michigan State is No. 18. … In the College Hockey News Power Ratings, Notre Dame is No. 2 and Michigan State No. 4 in strength of schedule. Coaches: Notre Dame, Jeff Jackson (389-242-69 in 18th season at Notre Dame and 571-294-94 in 24th season overall). … Michigan State, Adam Nightingale (13-13-2 in first season at Michigan State and overall).

Rivalry: Earlier this season at the Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame blanked Michigan State 5-0 on Oct. 28 as Chayse Primeau and Ryder Rolston each had a goal and two assists and Ryan Bischel made 30 saves, two more than former Irish goalie Dylan St. Cyr had for the Spartans. ... But the teams tied 1-1 on Oct. 29 as Bischel made 41 saves and St. Cyr made 39; the Spartans earned an extra point by winning the shootout 2-1 on goals by Tanner Kelly and Karsen Dorwart. … Michigan State leads 70-51-16 in series which began with 3-1 Irish victory at University Rink in Lansing on Jan. 15, 1927. … Irish are 4-0 in last four meetings at Munn Ice Arena, including a pair of 2-0 shutouts by Dylan St. Cyr during 2020-21 season.

Scouting Fighting Irish: In its last four games, Notre Dame has scored seven power-play goals in 20 opportunities. … Senior right wing Trevor Janicke (8-10-18), grad center Chayse Primeau (7-11-18), grad defenseman/captain Nick Leivermann (5-11-16), junior defenseman Drew Bavaro (4-10-14) and senior left wing Jesse Lansdell (5-8-13) will be asked to pick up scoring slack after junior right wing Ryder Rolston (7-13-20) suffered a broken collarbone against the Badgers. … Senior Ryan Bischel leads nation with saves (879), is tied for fifth with four shutouts, is fifth in saves percentage (.928) and is 32nd in goals-against average (2.48). ... Jackson, who earned two degrees as a goaltender for Michigan State, has a 37-19-14 record as a head coach at Lake Superior State and Notre Dame against his alma mater, including 15-10-4 mark in East Lansing. … NCAA team statistics (out of 61 teams as of Jan. 30): Scoring offense, 2.46 goals per game (46th); scoring defense, 2.71 goals per game (28th); scoring margin, -0.25 goals per game (37th); faceoff-win percentage, 0.488 (823-864) (38th); power-play percentage, 0.188 (18 of 96) (33rd); power-play goals scored, 18 (29th); penalty-kill percentage, 0.768 (76 of 99) (50th); shorthanded goals scored, 2 (25th); team penalty minutes per game, 12.04 (15th).

Scouting Spartans: A pair of freshmen, center Karsen Dorwart (8-16-24) and right wing Daniel Russell (8-15-23), lead Michigan State in scoring with senior center Nicolas Müller (3-18-21) and senior left wing Jagger Joshua (11-9-20) close behind. … The Spartans have 17 goals from their defensemen, nine of which have been scored by fifth-year senior Cole Krygier (9-4-13). … Goalie Dylan St. Cyr, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2021 and then spent a graduate year at Quinnipiac, is 12-13-2 with two shutouts, a 2.88 goals-against average and a .913 saves percentage. … Nightingale is a 2005 graduate of Michigan State. ... NCAA team statistics (out of 61 teams as of Jan. 30): Scoring offense, 2.82 goals per game (28th); scoring defense, 3.11 goals per game (41st); scoring margin, -0.29 goals per game (38th); faceoff-win percentage, 0.486 (846-894) (41st); power-play percentage, 0.183 (17 of 93) (35th); power-play goals scored, 17 (34th); penalty-kill percentage, 0.800 (88 of 110) (30th); shorthanded goals scored, 2 (25th); team penalty minutes per game, 11.93 (17th).

Next up: Notre Dame concludes its regular-season home schedule Feb. 10-11 vs. No. 7 Ohio State. … Michigan State plays host to No. 6 Michigan Feb. 10 and then travels to Detroit Feb. 11 for the “Duel in the D” at Little Caesars Arena with the Wolverines.

– John Fineran, Tribune Correspondent