MSU moves on behind St. Cyr and Müller to eliminate Notre Dame

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – No. 17 Notre Dame’s postseason hockey schedule is in limbo and likely on life support because the Irish couldn’t handle a pair of veteran players from No. 20 Michigan State.

The Spartans’ 5-foot-8 goaltender Dylan St. Cyr, who played at Notre Dame and earned his degree in 2021 before moving on to use his remaining years of eligibility at Quinnipiac and back in his home state in East Lansing, once again came up big against his former teammates, making 37 saves. He played large in Michigan State’s 4-2 victory to win the best-of-three, first-round Big Ten Tournament playoff series.

But it was 6-foot, 188-pound senior center Nicolas Müller, who scored a pair of goals and also won a key faceoff following the second period media timeout that junior linemate Jeremy Davidson converted into an easy goal two seconds after the puck was dropped at 11:01. 

Game 2:Michigan State icers even Big Ten tournament series with 4-2 win over Notre Dame

Tiernan Shoudy’s close-in goal at 6:42 of the third period extended the lead and first-year coach Adam Nightingale’s Spartans (18-17-2) eventually survived to move into a one-game semifinal Saturday at No. 1-seed and top-ranked Minnesota (25-8-1). The Spartans’ PairWise ranking improved to No. 16.

“It’s disappointing because I feel bad for the guys,” Irish coach Jeff Jackson said after his 18th Irish team fell back to .500 at 16-16-5. “I can get over it, but it’s hard on the guys, especially the guys who are finished.”

The Irish battled Sunday as they did in the two regular-season series before the playoffs when they took nine of a possible 12 points from No. 9 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan to gain home ice. 

Michigan State players and fans celebrate empty net goal during the Michigan State-Notre Dame NCAA hockey game on Sunday, March 05, 2023, at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.

“But you run into a good goalie (St. Cyr) and have a scoring problem, it’s a bad combination,” Jackson said. 

The Irish, who stayed out of the penalty box, scored a pair of power-play goals on four opportunities from the Spartans. Sophomore left wing Justin Janicke scored at 4:55 of the first period, and sophomore center Hunter Strand scored at 16:37 of the third period. Senior goaltender Ryan Bischel, who had 36 saves, 18 in the third period, in Friday’s 1-0 victory, finished with 24 saves as his teammates outshot the Spartans 39-28.

The loss evened Notre Dame’s record at 16-16-5 and left coach Jeff Jackson’s team tied at 18th with Omaha (NCHC) and Connecticut (Hockey East) with the Irish likely needing some help from other teams to move back up in the rankings. Notre Dame had risen to No. 12 following its 1-0 victory over Michigan State in the series opener Friday night but then fell to 16th following their 4-2 loss Saturday night in Game 2.

“I don’t know if we’re out of the (NCAA) tournament, but we probably have a minimal chance,” Jackson said. “I’m sure it’s a longshot. Even so, anything can still happen.”

The bracket for the 16-team NCAA tournament will be revealed Sunday, March 19, and the Irish streak of six straight tournament appearances is hanging by a thread because of a flurry of late-season injuries and an anemic offense — the Irish entered the weekend 52nd out of 61 teams in scoring (2.35 goals per game) and they managed just five goals in three games against St. Cyr.

“If you can’t score, you’re not going to win,” Jackson said. “This has been a great group of guys — the culture is strong; the leadership is good. Losing (senior) Max Elllis (he signed with the Maple Leafs after his junior season last summer), losing (junior Ryder) Rolston (who suffered a broken collarbone against Wisconsin) and a couple of key freshmen who could score and went elsewhere (Minnesota’s Logan Cooley was committed to the Irish) hurt. You’ve got to have guys who can score goals.”

The Irish coach was pleased with the way his team came out at the start of Game 3, and the Irish got their first goal at 4:55 after the first of two Spartan penalties in the Irish defensive zone.

With Daniel Russell off for interference at 4:04, the Irish maintained control for most of the first 50 seconds. Grad center Chayse Primeau, one of several skaters playing hurt (broken finger), found Janicke in the faceoff circle. The Irish sophomore left wing fired the shot and got a great screen from Landon Slaggert, and St. Cyr didn’t see Janicke’s 25-foot shot until it ended up behind him for a 1-0 Irish lead.

The Spartans tied it at 1-1 after the Irish fourth line got careless in its own zone, leaving Müller to skate through the slot unguarded. Erik Middendorf made a cross-ice pass to the unguarded Spartan, and Müller whistled a wrister past Bischel at 11:27. 

The 6-foot-3 Primeau had an excellent chance to put the Irish up 2-1 at 14:04 when Slaggert broke him in alone, but the Irish center couldn’t lift the puck over St. Cyr’s right pad.

The Irish got another power play late in the period when Jagger Joshua was called for goalie interference on Bischel at 16:42. St. Cyr made two saves in the penalty-kill and then denied Irish captain and grad defenseman Nick Leivermann at 19:36 at the doorstep to keep it 1-1. St. Cyr finished with 11 saves, five more than Bischel.

The Irish again dominated the shots in the second period, getting 13 to Michigan State’s 7. But most of the attempts were from long distance, and St. Cyr’s defenders kept the Irish from jumping on any rebounds.

A little after the midway point of the period, Michigan State put some pressure on Bischel, with Müller testing him at 10:44 and the Irish goalie stopping defenseman Michael Underwood’s drive at 11:00.

The media timeout came at 10:59 with Notre Dame ahead in shots 23-11. After the ice surface was repaired, Müller won a draw to Bischel’s left from Primeau and the Irish defense allowed the unguarded Davidson to get to the loose puck in front of the net. Davidson jumped on the gift, poking it past Bischel at 11:01 to put his team up 2-1, a score that would stand until the start of the third period. 

“Those goals (off the faceoff) are tough goals to handle,” Jackson said. “They kill the emotion of your team, which was playing well. You get chances and can’t score, and then they get a faceoff and score.”

Shoudy made it 3-1 Michigan State at 6:42 of the third period when he beat Bischel and the Irish defenders to tap in a goal. Junior defenseman Nash Nienhuis and Miroslav Mucha, a grad transfer from Lake Superior State, got assists.

Just a little under 10 minutes later, the Irish got their fourth power-play opportunity of the night when Underwood, a grad transfer from Clarkson, was sent to the box at 15:51 for interference. Jackson elected to pull Bischel for the first time to give his team a 6-on-4 advantage in the MSU defensive zone. Leivermann gave the puck to Solag Bakich, who found Strand down low and to St. Cyr’s left. The Irish sophomore center banged it home to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Bischel came to the bench at 16:56, and St. Cyr stopped Strand’s chance at 17:26. At 18:17, Müller got the puck along the boards inside his own zone and lifted a shot down the ice and it rolled 140 feet into the vacated net to complete the evening scoring. 

Bischel made his final save of the game at 19:45, stopping a 2-on-0 break shot by Russell, and possible the final save of a memorable senior season.  His 24 saves left him with a nation-leading 1,183 saves, 128 more than St. Cyr.

Michigan State forward Erik Middendorf (24), Notre Dame forward Chayse Primeau (13), and Michigan State forward Daniel Russell (20) battle for the puck along the boards during the Michigan State-Notre Dame NCAA hockey game on Sunday, March 05, 2023, at Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend, Indiana.

The two goaltenders, who built a friendship as undergrads at Notre Dame before St. Cyr graduated, shared more than a few words and chest taps at center ice. Then St. Cyr moved on to share some time with his old coach Jackson, who graduated with two degrees from Michigan State while playing goalie for the late Ron Mason in the 1970s.

“We knew Dylan was a good goalie when he left here,” Jackson said. “I like the kid, I’m proud of him, I’m happy for him. I wish he had beaten somebody else, but he’s still an alum. I’m not going to discredit him — he played well this weekend.”

And all season against Notre Dame. In seven games against Notre Dame, St. Cyr won 5 times (one on a shootout) and lost twice.


At Lefty Smith Rink in Compton Family Ice Arena, South Bend

Michigan State112—4
Notre Dame101—2

First Period—Scoring: 1. Notre Dame, Justin Janicke 7 (Landon Slaggert, Chayse Primeau) PP 4:55. 2. Michigan State, Nicolas Müller 8 (Erik Middendorf, Jeremy Davidson) EV 11:27. Penalties: Michigan State 2-4, Notre Dame 0-0.

Second Period—Scoring: 3. Michigan State, Jeremy Davidson 9 (Nicolas Müller) EV 11:01. Penalties: Michigan State 0-0 (2-4), Notre Dame 0-0 (0-0).

Third Period—Scoring: 4. Michigan State, Tiernan Shoudy 6 (Nash Nienhuis, Miroslav Mucha) EV 6:42. 5. Notre Dame, Hunter Strand 5 (Solag Bakich, Nick Leivermann) PP, EA 16:37. 6. Michigan State, Nicolas Müller 9 (unassisted) EN 18:17. Penalties: Michigan State 2-4 (4-8), Notre Dame 0-0 (0-0).

Shots on goal: Michigan State 28 (7-8-13), Notre Dame 39 (12-13-14). Goalie saves: Michigan State, Dylan St. Cyr 37 (11-13-13); Notre Dame, Ryan Bischel 24 (6-7-11). 

Power-play opportunities: Michigan State 0 of 0, Notre Dame 2 of 4. Faceoffs won: Michigan State 36 (9-12-15), Notre Dame 36 (13-13-10). Blocked shots: Michigan State 22 (9-7-6), Notre Dame 20 (7-7-6).

Referees: Jonathon Sitarski and Jake Rekucki. Linesmen: Pat Richardson and Nick Huff. Attendance: 4,238 (4,852). Records: Michigan State 18-17-2, Notre Dame 16-16-5.



Best-of-3 series

Friday’s results

(4) Notre Dame 1, (5) Michigan State 0

(2) Michigan 6, (7) Wisconsin 5 (OT)

(3) Ohio State 5, (6) Penn State 1

Saturday’s results

(5) Michigan State 4, (4) Notre Dame 2 (series tied 1-1)

(6) Penn State 2, (3) Ohio State 1 (OT) (series tied 1-1)

(2) Michigan 7, (7) Wisconsin 4 (Michigan wins series, 2-0)

Sunday’s results

(5) Michigan State 4, (4) Notre Dame 2 (Michigan State wins series 2-1)

(3) Ohio State 3, (6) Penn State 1 (Ohio State wins series, 2-1)


Single-game elimination

Saturday, March 11

(3) Ohio State (20-14-3) at (2) Michigan (22-11-3), 6:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)

(5) Michigan State (18-17-2) at (1) Minnesota (25-8-1), 9 p.m. (Big Ten Network)


Single-game elimination

Saturday, March 18

Semifinal winners at highest seed remaining, TBD (Big Ten Network)