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Hockey

Irish to take on Spartans in final regular season series

| Friday, February 28, 2020

After sweeping a critical Big Ten weekend series against one of the hottest teams in Michigan, the Notre Dame hockey team will close out the regular season against Michigan State at home. The Irish (14-12-6, 9-8-5 Big Ten) currently sit in fourth place in the Big Ten standings but after this weekend can finish anywhere between tied for first and sixth. Notre Dame will be looking to carry its momentum into this week and potentially earn a higher seed for the conference tournament with the possibility to earn the No. 2 spot in the seeding.

While success on the road has not been an issue for the Irish, consistency at home is something head coach Jeff Jackson is looking for in his team.

“I think we played good road hockey, and we need to bring that home,” Jackson said. “My biggest message is we need to bring that same level of play into our building. We’ve got to find a way to make sure we bring that same desperate hockey here to our building.”

Nathanial George | The Observer

Irish sophomore defenseman Nick Leivermann controls the puck during Notre Dame’s 2-1 loss to Minnesota on Feb. 15.

Despite owning a four-game losing streak, the Spartans (14-17-1, 10-11-1 Big Ten) will still be a tough match-up for Notre Dame, bringing in a high-powered offense as well as a potent first line and power play that poses a threat to the Irish that cannot be overlooked.

“I don’t know if they’re struggling per se. As far as wins go, yes, but they’re still playing well just watching them on video,” Jackson said. “They’re a team that executes extremely well. You can tell exactly what they’re trying to do, and they do it pretty well.”

The Big Ten standings are a logjam towards the top with the top six teams separated only by 10 points. The Irish sit within two of Minnesota and Ohio State at 35 points while both Michigan and Michigan State are just behind Notre Dame, trailing only by two and four points, respectively. Though tightly contested in the standings, Jackson wants his team to stay focused on their play rather than standings.

“We need to worry about how we’re playing, probably more so than worrying about the points right now,” Jackson said. “We just have to continue to play at the level at which we played on the weekend as far as just our intensity, our physicality, our smarts. The way we played was impressive and if we can continue that, then hopefully we can go on a bit of a run.”

With the regular season coming to a close, Notre Dame will take time after Saturday’s game to honor the five seniors who are graduating this season. Defenseman Tory Dello, forwards Mike O’Leary, Cam Morrison and Cal Burke, and goaltender Cale Morris will all be recognized at the conclusion of the weekend’s contest.

Puck drop for the end-of-season matchups is set for 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday at Compton Family Ice Arena.

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