PREVIEW: Michigan State hockey proves their worth, prepares for a clash with Notre Dame

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Emily Martin

After a split weekend against Minnesota, No. 8 Michigan State hockey heads on the road to face off against Notre Dame.

The past two weekends have seen some highs for this Spartan team, along with some lows as well. Michigan State’s last two victories had something in common: the Spartans had to come from behind. While Daniel Russell’s thrilling goal in the last four seconds of the first game against Minnesota proved the power of this Michigan State squad, it also showed something else. This team is no longer the underdog; they are the one to beat. 

“It’s gonna be tougher hockey down the stretch and we are going to see every team’s best,” captain Nash Nienhuis said. “We are the hunted right now.”

Sitting at the top of the conference with 37 points, the Spartans are the team to beat in the Big Ten. Going down early in the first period has been a common trend for the team in the last four games, and they have proven to still be able to fight back. Head coach Adam Nightingale has made his expectations clear for his team and knows that his team needs to learn different ways to win.

“There were seven different times we were down in the series. Normally you don’t come back and I think it shows a lot of character,” Nightingale said. “You have to know how to hang on to leads, and you have to know how to come back.”

The team knows how to play behind, with five unanswered goals in the comeback versus Michigan and three unanswered in the comeback versus Minnesota. However, in the two losses in those series, there was some panic from the Spartans when playing from behind. To stay at the top, MSU  will need to continue to focus on the ‘spartan way’ and cancel out the noise.

“When we play our game we are really tough to play with, and when we don’t we give the other team chances and they’re able to capitalize,” freshman Griffin Jurecki said. “If we’re able to play our game for a whole 60 minutes we are a really good team.”

Jurecki was one of two Spartans to bury his first goal of the season against the Golden Gophers. Jurecki opened the scoring for Michigan State in the third period of game one, while Matt Basgall had his first on night two, scoring the lone goal of the game. The Spartans prove that they can score up and down all four lines and defensive pairings. 

The Fighting Irish had a week of rest on the bye after a sweep of Penn State at home. They sit fourth in the conference with 24 points. Notre Dame holds a favorable advantage over Michigan State on home ice, holding a 32-28-11 edge against the Spartans in South Bend. 

The weekend will be a test for Michigan State, now recognizing themselves as the hunted and a consecutive top-ten team. Opponents will be looking for an upset against them for the last stretch of the regular season and the team must be prepared to face the challenge.

“In the last year for sure we could sneak up on some teams, and that’s not the case anymore,” Nightingale said, “You gotta be at about a nine out of ten if you’re gonna have success.”

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