Michigan State opens Big Ten play at No. 12 Notre Dame: picks, players to watch and more


MSU forward Jagger Joshua lays out a Notre Dame hockey player/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Jacob Stinson, Hockey beat reporter

Michigan State has dominated the third period all season. The Spartans have proven to be capable of mounting a comeback, outshooting their opponents 88-39 in the third. 

However, they probably hope they won’t have to do it as often. 

Last weekend marked the first time that Michigan State scored the opening goal in a game. which The Spartans did twice against Long Island University, resulting in the first career series sweep for first-year head coach Adam Nightingale.

Saturday’s game was the most noteworthy, as Michigan State erupted for an 8-4 victory over the Sharks. Senior forward Jagger Joshua’s hat trick earned him Big Ten Third Star of the Week honors.

While Nightingale is happy both for his players and to earn the sweep, he doesn’t want to revel in that light for too long.

“Everybody talks about handling adversity, and I think we don’t talk enough about handling success,” Nightingale said. “You have to keep that humble approach.”

Nightingale’s Spartans will need that humility this weekend when they go on the road to face No. 12 Notre Dame for a two-game series.

Notre Dame (3-2-1) is finishing up its tour of Michigan after playing consecutive series against both Northern Michigan and Western Michigan. The latter, a home-and-home series with the Broncos, resulted in two shutouts – a 2-0 Irish win in South Bend and a 4-0 domination by Western Michigan in Kalamazoo.

While the offense has been fairly inconsistent for the Irish, the team really prides itself on its defense and physicality making it difficult for opponents to find a rhythm. 

“They’re a very well-coached team,” Nightingale said. “There’s no easy offense. If we’re going there expecting them to just hand us offense, it’s not going to happen…the simple task of getting to the inside is really challenging against them.”

Former Notre Dame goalie Dylan St. Cyr is expected to start for Michigan State. St. Cyr will be making his return to South Bend for the first time since March 2020. He’s started all but one game for Michigan State so far, posting a .910 save percentage and 2.03 goals against average in that span.

While St. Cyr does get to face his former school, he hasn’t had much of a workload to this point. Michigan State has only allowed 23.2 shots per game, which is the fifth-lowest average in the country.

This weekend will mark the 136th and 137th time the Irish and Spartans have met Michigan State leads the all-time series 70-50-15. 

Players to watch

Karsen Dorwart, F, Michigan State: While Joshua’s performance Saturday stole the show, Dorwart, Joshua’s linemate, had a fantastic weekend as well. The freshman center followed up a one-goal performance in the first game with four assists in the next, the latter of which hadn’t been done since Patrick Khodorenko in 2019. Dorwart seems to have found his groove in Nightingale’s system, so look for him to build on that this weekend.

Nick Leivermann, D, Notre Dame: The Notre Dame captain returned to the lineup against Western Michigan after missing the first four games of the year. Following a 27-point season a year ago, the fifth-year defenseman scored the game-winning goal in the first game of the series last week. If Notre Dame can get its offense going, expect Leivermann to be the catalyst. 

Nash Nienhuis, D, Michigan State: Even if you disregard his two goals Saturday, Nienhuis has had a very underrated season to this point. While his playmaking has always been there, the junior has made significant strides on defense, shutting down offensive rushes and forcing turnovers. If he can keep it up and keep St. Cyr out of trouble, Nienhuis is in a great position to be the key to victory for the Spartans.

Impact staff predictions

Stinson: Both teams split. Michigan State has been punching way above its weight all season, so I think that trend will continue. As good as I know Notre Dame to be, what they’ve shown so far hasn’t convinced me that the Irish are deserving of that No. 12 ranking.

Jacob Phillips, Hockey Beat Reporter: Both teams split. MSU isn’t the same team that Notre Dame has faced in the past few years. They’re more aggressive on the forecheck and are much better in the third period. With that being said, Notre Dame is ranked No. 12 in the country and will be the Spartans’ toughest opponent so far. Despite being on the road, expect the Spartans to get at least one win similar to their series against UMass-Lowell.

Ryan Radosevich, Hockey Beat Reporter: Both teams split. With this weekend being MSU’s conference opener and Notre Dame’s second week of Big Ten action, we don’t know everything about these teams. That being said, both teams fared well in their non-conference slate, but have a lot unproven. MSU has a very solid offensive attack. If Notre Dame wants to win, they’ll have to disrupt the Michigan State zone entries. If the Irish can slow down MSU’s offensive game plan by doing that, they’ll have a good chance of winning. All in all, these two teams always play tight games (three out of four games last season were decided by one goal) and I see them splitting.

Puck drop from Compton Family Ice Arena is scheduled for Friday at 7:35 p.m. EST for the first game, while the second begins Saturday at 6:05 p.m.