It looked like a strong effort would come up just a bit short for Harvard when a pair of Minnesota goals within 29 seconds of each other late in the third period turned a 2-1 Harvard lead into a 3-2 deficit. But Harvard's top line, which had been held in check most of the evening, came through in a big way late. Senior forward Kyle Criscuolo scored on pretty feeds from fellow co-captain Jimmy Vesey to tie the game with 34 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, and then again 2:39 into overtime to win the Mariucci Classic for the Crimson.
Harvard got on the board early when Sean Malone banged home a pass from Seb Lloyd in front of the net at 2:04 of the first period. The Crimson would take control of the game at 9:31 of the second when Lloyd tipped in a Colin Blackwell shot on the power play.
But Minnesota, who had been pressuring Harvard heavily all night, finally broke through in the final minute of the second period when Michael Brodzinski wired a snap shot over the glove of Harvard goalie Merrick Madsen. That got Minnesota on the board and gave them momentum heading into the final period of play.
Minnesota tied the game at 14:01 of the third period when Leon Bristedt broke past the Minnesota defense and slid a puck underneath Madsen. Before the crowd could settle down from the first goal, Steve Johnson put the Gophers ahead with his first career goal 28 seconds after Bristedt's.
That goal looked like it would stand as the game-winner. But after Harvard called timeout with just under a minute remaining, they scored an extra attacker goal off a set play with Vesey feeding the puck across the crease to Criscuolo, which sent the game to overtime.
In overtime, it was Harvard's top line again. The Crimson picked up the puck in the neutral zone and on a transition rush, executed a perfect 3-on-2 rush, with Criscuolo finishing off the play with a pretty shot top shelf.
The win moves Harvard to 8-1-3 on the season, while Minnesota falls to 8-9-0.
Notes and Thoughts:
- I can't help but feel like Minnesota deserved a better fate in this game. The Gophers came out flying and controlled the early minutes of this game, generating a couple quality chances in the game's first minute, while Harvard couldn't break the puck out of their own end. But then Harvard came down the ice and scored on their first shot attempt of the game.
-The Gophers had that kind of heavy pressure all night. The speed of their forwards made life really difficult for Harvard's defense, which I thought struggled all night against that pressure. They were forced to give up big gaps and easy zone entry because they had to respect the speed that Minnesota was coming at them with. Minnesota's speed on the forecheck also made it difficult for a couple Harvard D that really struggled to move the puck tonight. It looked like it was finally going to pay off when Leon Bristedt--who was electric all night--used his speed to get around a Harvard defender to tie the game, and then Minnesota capitalized again right after that. But credit Harvard for being skilled enough to take advantage of the opportunities that they got.
-I was really impressed with Harvard goalie Merrick Madsen. He had big stats coming into this game, but hasn't played a lot of minutes, nor faced great competition. His stat line will take a little hit tonight with three goals on 29 shots, but I thought he was a difference-maker, especially early. He made some key saves that kept Harvard in the game and gave them a chance to win tonight.
-In addition to Leon Bristedt being very good tonight, his linemates Hudson Fasching and Tommy Novak were excellent all night as well. Novak has really improved from the beginning of the year to now, and I think he could make a big jump in the second half.
On defense, the top pairing of Nick Seeler and Jack Glover drew a tough assignment with Harvard's top line, and did a pretty nice job shutting them down for most of the night.
-For Harvard, it was a really quiet night for Hobey Baker candidate Jimmy Vesey until the end of the game when he set up the two late goals. His center Alex Kerfoot was the best player on the ice all night. I also loved Tyler Moy, who is such a gritty, effective player.
There's a lot of talent on Harvard's forward lines and they're fun to watch, but their blue line really scares me. As I said above, they really struggled against Minnesota's speed and pressure. They're good enough to slow down most opponents, especially with Madsen behind them, but if there is a weakness on this team, it is on the blue line.
-This was the third extra-attacker game-tying goal Minnesota has given up at home this season. They survived one of them in an overtime win against Ohio State, but they dropped overtime games to Minnesota State and now Harvard after leading heading into the final minute. Those losses are the difference between Minnesota being 19th in the Pairwise, where they sit right now, and being 9th in the Pairwise. There's still time to recover, but they have a lot more work to do in the second half to overcome those losses.
-This was a really fun, up-and-down game with two teams that have the skill to really attack offensively when they establish possession of the puck. The exciting finish late and extra hockey was just a huge bonus.
Shots on goal: UM: 10-11-8-0-29 HU: 12-8-15-4-39
Even strength shot attempts: UM: 16-20-13- HU: 16-11-20-
Prime scoring area attempts: UM: 7-8-4- HU: 6-4-10-
What do the numbers tell us?
The numbers show a pretty even first period, with Minnesota holding the advantage in the second period, and Harvard controlling the third period. Strangley, Minnesota's worst period was probably the third, which they won 2-1, but the two goals came off really high quality chances.
2:04 Sean Malone from Seb Lloyd and Michael Floodstrand 1-0 Harvard
Lloyd had the puck behind the net in the left corner and fed a pass out to Malone in front of the net who chipped it over Schierhorn for the goal.
9:31 Seb Lloyd from Colin Blackwell and Desmond Bergin (power play) 2-0 Harvard
Blackwell's low shot from the right point beat a screened Schierhorn for the goal.
19:41 Michael Brodzinski from Hudson Fasching and 2-1 Harvard
Fasching brought the puck into the zone, but had it knocked away by a Harvard defender. Brodzinski picked up the loose puck just inside the blue line and sniped a snap shot over the glove hand of Madsen.
14:01 Leon Bristedt from Hudson Fasching and Tommy Novak 2-2 tie
Bristedt took a pass on the left wing from Fasching as they entered the zone. Bristedt beat the Harvard defender wide then cut across the crease and slid a backhand underneath Madsen for the goal.
14:29 Steve Johnson from Connor Reilly and Taylor Cammarata 3-2 Minnesota
Reilly took the puck deep into the Harvard zone down the right wing. He stopped and spun away from a Harvard defender, then hit a trailing Johnson who fired a low wrist shot past Madsen.
19:26 Kyle Criscuolo from Jimmy Vesey and Luke Esposito (extra attacker) 3-3 tie
Esposito passed the puck to Vesey from the right half boards down to the goal line. Vesey took the puck towards the net then fed a pass across the crease to Criscuolo who tapped in the game-tying goal.
2:39 Kyle Criscuolo from Jimmy Vesey and Alex Kerfoot 4-3 Harvard
Kerfoot entered the zone with the puck on a 3-on-2 rush. He fed a puck to Vesey in the slot, who faked a shot and dished the puck to Criscuolo, who fired a shot top shelf for the game-winner.