Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Know Thy Enemy: Notre Dame

Before the normal glance at this weekend's opponent - if you haven't seen the Spartan Hockey All Access from earlier this week, I would highly recommend it (focuses on the Michigan series):

Spartan Hockey All-Access - Michigan Series

Here Come the Irish:

Football isn't the only thing in South Bend that has been successful this year. The hockey team is having a pretty good year as well. 
Michigan State hopes to rebound after a frustrating weekend at home, but things won't be easy for the Spartans as they travel to #4/5 ranked Notre Dame. The Spartans haven't won in four games (0-3-1) scoring only three goals in those games. Michigan State is now tied for 9th place with Northern Michigan.

Notre Dame comes into the weekend in second place in the CCHA with a 7-1-0-0 CCHA and 11-4-0 overall mark. They are only one point behind league leading Miami with two games on hand. The Irish have won three in a row and five of their last six games. The good news for Spartan fans is three of their four losses have been at home (Minnesota-Duluth, Western Michigan, and North Dakota).

Notre Dame has a bit of an odd schedule, as the Irish play Michigan State in four of their next six games. The two teams play again in East Lansing on January 11th and 12th.

Michigan State holds a 60-39-4 edge in the all-time series.

Notre Dame now holds a 25-22-7 edge in South Bend.

At one point Notre Dame held an 11 game unbeaten streak against MSU that started in January of 2008. The streak (0-8-3) ending last February as Michigan State won 4-2 in South Bend.

Highlights From The Last Meeting, a 4-2 Michigan State Victory

MSU's four game winless streak is the longest such streak under Tom Anastos.

If you aren't to the point that you don't like the Irish - I present you exhibit 'A' to dislike them, it isn't the Notre Dame victory march, it isn't Rudy, it isn't Brian Kelly, or the fact that you think they are going to get rolled by Alabama - it's for someone producing this:



National TV

Friday's game will be on national TV on the NBC Sports Network starting at 7:05 pm. Saturday's game can be seen on Comcast (Channel 900) at 7:05 pm. Both games can be heard on 1240 am or on The Spartan Sports Network.   

Notre Dame Leading Scorers

Andres Lee    10 goals, 15 points
Jeff Costello    5 goals, 12 points
Robbie Russo  4 goals, 12 points
Bryan Rust      4 goals,  12 points
T.J. Tynan       3 goals,   10 points

Notre Dame Goalies

Steven Summerhays    9-4-0, 1.57 GAA, .936 save %
Mike Johnson   2-0-0, 1.91 GAA, .929 save %

The Irish power play is 11 for 70 (15.7%)
The Irish penalty kill is 53 for 58 (91.4%), and they are only penalized on average 12.5 minutes a game.

The Spartan power play is ranked 11th in the country, but it'll be tested this weekend against a very tough and experienced Notre Dame team. The penalty kill has killed off 18 straight power plays. The Spartan PK is ranked 11th in the country as well. 

Notre Dame has outscored teams 28-10 this year in the first and third periods combined. The second period they have only managed to outscore teams 18-15. The Irish are 7-2 this year when scoring the first goal, and they are 7-0 when leading after the first period.

Final Thoughts

The Spartans are looking to find some offense. Case in point, Jake Hildebrand ranks second in the CCHA with a .942 save % (fourth nationally) - and in his four losses this year, MSU has scored a total of one goal.

Enter one of the best defensive teams in the country as well as one of the most experienced teams in the league. It won't be easy, but the Spartans are going to have to limit their mistakes in order to come away with some points in this series. The effort should be there, it usually is, but Notre Dame will take advantage of any potential breakdowns on offense or on defense (much like Ohio State did last weekend).

It's going to be tough for Michigan State, but scoring first is crucial in this series. Force Notre Dame to play from behind, which might force them to open it up a little bit especially late. The Spartans haven't done well lately against Notre Dame in recent years, but they did win the last game between the two teams.

Notre Dame doesn't always light the scoreboard up, but they are capable. This series is going to be challenging on the same level that Minnesota was. If the Spartans get a great game in goal, continue to work hard, they should be in the game, but it's going to be about going to the net more and working for the garbage goals more than last weekend. If they can do that, then you never know what can happen.

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