Enter the second-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. This was a weekend that few people thought the Spartans could get many (if any) points. On Friday night those fears were confirmed when Notre Dame won 1-0. It marked the fifth time this season Michigan State was shutout. Even worse, it marked the third time Michigan State had lost 1-0 wasting a superb effort in goal by Jake Hildebrand.
Despite all that though, the Spartans still played well. They had chances, none more closer than Forfar's crossbar shot in the third period. Frustrations had to be building in the locker room. They still were working hard, and they were really doing a good job by doing the little things better (i.e. winning face-offs, playing hard in the corners, etc...). But nothing on the scoreboard.
Then this happened:
MSUSpartans.com Video Highlights
Obviously it's way too soon to say this is the type of win that turned a season around, but a weekend like this has to give Michigan State some confidence as they head into another home and home series with Ferris State.
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Notre Dame is still really in the driver's seat. They hold a huge advantage on Miami with the 3 games on hand. Western Michigan is really the next closest team. Ohio State and Miami seem to hold the inside track to a top four spot and home ice in the quarterfinal round. The next group appears to be Ferris State, LSSU, and Alaska right now battling it out for the fifth spot - and the final spot for a first round bye. Bowling Green has the games on hand to really move up the standings, and they are unbeaten in three straight games and 4-1-2 in their last seven games. They just won in Ann Arbor 5-1.
Speaking of Michigan, the Spartans and Wolverines and tied for 8th - which is the final home ice spot for the first round of the playoffs. However, if Bowling Green wins all their games on hand, they could be as high as seventh place. The Falcons have a tough stretch coming up with a weeknight game against Notre Dame followed by a home and home with Western and a road series at Miami.
Michigan was just swept at home by Alaska - which has never happened before. One wonders if that second half run is really going to happen. Northern Michigan is known for having strong second halves as well, and they are unbeaten in four games (3-0-1).
A full weekend of CCHA action is on tap this weekend, though Miami does go out of conference:
Games This Week:
Notre Dame at Bowling Green
Western Michigan at Bowling Green
Michigan at LSSU
Ferris State at Michigan State (Fox Sports Detroit)
Alaska at Notre Dame
Ohio State at Northern Michigan
Miami at Wisconsin (Big Ten Network)
Michigan State at Ferris State
Michigan at LSSU
Alaska at Notre Dame (CBS Sports Network)
Ohio State at Northern Michigan
Bowling Green at Western Michigan
Miami at Wisconsin (Fox Sports Wisconsin Plus)
CCHA Power Rankings
1. Notre Dame (15-6-0, LW: 1). Even after a 1-2 week where the Irish only scored three goals, the Irish still hold the spot for the best team in the CCHA.
2. Western Michigan (13-5-4, LW: 3). The Broncos are in position to potentially challenge Notre Dame for the league title.
3. Miami (12-5-5, LW: 2). A rough weekend up in Marquette brings up some question marks if Miami can contend in the CCHA.
4. Alaska (8-8-4, LW: 8). The Nanooks just did something they've never done before - sweep Michigan.
5. Northern Michigan (9-10-4, LW: 6). The Wildcats are unbeaten in four.
6. Ferris State (10-9-3, LW: 5). The Bulldogs are hanging around the top four - can they go on another run?
7. Ohio State (8-9-5, LW: 9). Ohio State managed a split in Big Rapids, can they cool off the Wildcats?
8. LSSU (12-11-1, LW: 4). It might be a little harsh dropping them this far, but I think that just goes to show you how even some of these teams are.
9. Michigan State (6-13-3, LW: 10). A good weekend against South Bend and still a lot of home games coming up.
10. Bowling Green (6-10-5, LW: 11). Are the Falcons finally making a move? A tough week coming up with Notre Dame and Western Michigan.
11. Michigan (7-13-2, LW: 9). Has Michigan hit rock bottom yet?
Big Ten Power Rankings
1. Minnesota (16-3-3, LW: 1). Just keep winning, just keep winning, just keep winning. Gophers are unbeaten in eight (7-0-1)
2. Wisconsin (8-7-5, LW: 2). Just keep winning, just keep winning, just keep winning - Badgers are now unbeaten in ten games (7-0-3) which includes six straight wins.
3. Ohio State (8-9-5, LW: 4). The Buckeyes continue an up and down season.
4. Michigan State (6-13-3, LW: 6). Can Michigan State do something they haven't done yet this year - win three straight?
5. Penn State (8-11-0, LW: 5). A weekend split with the USA Development U-18 team - a pair of home games this week for Penn State before their first Big 10 weekend series against Michigan State (note: they have played Ohio State - but that wasn't a series).
6. Michigan (7-13-2, LW: 3). Just keep wishing, just keep wishing - the nation's longest NCAA tournament streak looks to be on life support and dependent upon a CCHA tournament championship.