As the clock wound down in the final minute of regulation on Saturday, Notre Dame’s sophomore forward Hunter Strand skated down in front of the net, firing a shot directly in front of graduate student goaltender Dylan St. Cyr.
It was the Fighting Irish’s last-ditch effort to tie the game and force overtime. Instead the puck bounced off St. Cyr’s glove onto the ice, landing in front of his pads. He scrambled to cover it with 1.3 seconds remaining in the game, receiving maybe the loudest roar from the home crowd of the year.
Graduate student defenseman Nick Leivermann took one more shot at the net off a face off, but it didn’t make a difference as it was blocked by the Spartans. Michigan State hockey earned a 3-2 win over the No. 20 team in the country, marking the second senior day victory in a row for MSU – the second in ten seasons. It also marked the Spartans' fifth sweep of the season after defeating the Fighting Irish 3-0 the previous night.
That final save was one of 33 by St. Cyr, who picked up 32 and a shutout on Friday. His weekend performance was, perhaps, a fitting way to start the end of his short tenure at Michigan State and his impressive collegiate hockey career, spanning six years and three schools.
MSU’s student section, the Munnsters, ended the game by chanting St. Cyr’s name, something it's made a habit of all season whenever the netminder made a crucial play.
“Building that fanbase back up here … it's really exciting to see the crowd get into it, whether it's we score a goal, make a save, kill a penalty, whatever it is,” St. Cyr said. “Obviously the fans really appreciate the work that we put in, and we appreciate everything the fans have done for us as well. So obviously here at senior night for the guys who put in for years, and even the grad transfers would come in – It's obviously really special, and then to do it against a team like Notre Dame, in an important time of the year, is awesome.”
While it was a day to celebrate the players in their final year as Spartans, the underclassmen did not hesitate to make their presence known.
Freshman forward Karsen Dorwart tallied his ninth goal of the season on a 4-on-3 power play to get Michigan State on the board 1-0 with 8:18 left on the clock in the first period. Freshman forward Daniel Russell and freshman defenseman Matt Basgall each collected an assist on Dorwart’s goal as well.
As a player who often records an assist rather than a goal, senior forward Nico Müller gave the Spartans a 2-1 lead, with his second of the weekend, before heading into the locker room. He was assisted by senior forward Erik Middendorf and junior forward Jeremy Davidson.
“Middy (Middendorf) made a nice play, he dropped it through his legs and he kind of picked it up and I knew I had a guy on my back, and I just kind of tried to get it to the front of the net,” Davidson said. “Nico happened to be there, right on his tape, so it was pretty fortunate.”
Despite taking a hooking penalty in the second period which resulted in Notre Dame’s first power play of the game, Middendorf finished senior night with two shots and two assists, including one on sophomore defenseman David Gucciardi’s game-winning goal.
Four minutes into the third, Gucciardi launched a powerful one-timer from the left point to put MSU back on top 3-2 with 16 minutes left to play.
Michigan State took three penalties throughout the game, but the largest came from senior forward Jagger Joshua who ran into Irish senior forward Jesse Lansdell and racked up a five-minute major boarding infraction, causing a Notre Dame goal to tie it 2-2. After scoring the game-winner the previous night, Joshua took just two shots on net on Saturday.
Joshua and Müller are the only two seniors on the squad with one remaining year of eligibility left. The pair are among the few who spent their whole careers at Michigan State. Both players have not decided if they will be back next season.
Like Middendorf, Davidson secured two assists on the night. In his second year at MSU after transferring from UMass, he said the leadership from the older members of the team, especially the seniors, has been “really good.”
“The experience that they bring to our group … has been unbelievable this year,” Davidson said. “I think that goes to show like on the ice and, you know, they helped us on the ice and off the ice.”
In the last ten seasons, Michigan State has picked up a senior day victory just twice. The second time was Saturday, and the first was last year on Feb. 22, 2022 when the Spartans defeated Penn State 2-1 to break its 13-game losing streak.
“Obviously I want to win every game – I'm ultra competitive – but I'm more thankful for what these guys have done for the seven months before this,” Head Hockey Coach Adam Nightingale said. “Whether we win the game or not, our job is to be there for our players and support them when it doesn't go well and keep coaching them, and then when things do go well and support them that way. … I'm happy for the guys, to go out like that on senior night, but that wouldn't change my feeling about whether we won or lost.”
The 10 seniors on the squad will have at least one more opportunity to play at Munn Ice Arena when No. 6 Michigan comes to town for the last home game of the season next Friday at 7 p.m.