Crimson Win Mariucci Classic Championship 4-3 Over Gophers

Brodzinksi, Bristedt, Johnson score three unanswered goals, but team can’t hold onto lead

Minneapolis, Minn.—The Gophers set out Saturday seeking their first Mariucci Classic Championship in three seasons and knew they’d have to stop Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey to do it. They kept the Hobey Hat Trick finalist in check for 59 minutes and 26 seconds, but Vesey assisted on a game tying goal and overtime winner as No. 7 Harvard (8-1-3, 4-1-3) beat Minnesota (8-9-0, 3-1-0) 4-3 in front of 9,726 at Mariucci Arena.

Minnesota Coach Don Lucia matched up his line of Leon Bristedt-Tommy Novak-Hudson Fasching against Harvard’s star forward most of the night with the last change, and despite falling behind 2-0, his team rallied back to take a 3-2 lead into the final minute.

“We have the quality to be a team that’s up there and fighting for the championship. I think we’re proving that game after game,” said Bristedt. “We have some ups and downs, we’re not consistent yet, but when we play our best games we’re up there.”

The Gophers weren’t consistent enough at the start allowing Harvard forward Sean Malone to open the scoring on a defensive coverage error by Minnesota. The Crimson’s Seb Lloyd dumped the puck into the left wing corner, Michael Floodstrand won a puck battle back to Lloyd, and with both Minnesota defensemen below the goal line, the puck came out to Malone. The third line forward had plenty of time to catch and elevate the puck into the upper corner 2:04 into the first period.

Harvard then stretched their lead midway through the second period. As time was ticking down during their the first power play opportunity, a point shot from Colin Blackwell went off the pipe and in at 9:31. Lloyd was screening Eric Schierhorn and the goalie never got a clean look at it.

Despite having to chase the scoreboard during the first two periods, the Gophers didn’t play recklessly either and outshot the Crimson 21-20 after the first 40 minutes. The maroon and gold won many of their shifts, and threatened Harvard on the rush to test 6’5” Harvard goalie Merrick Madsen often.

“We went toe-to-toe which is what I expected,” said Lucia. “We had some real good opportunities I think in the second period and the first period even, we hit a cross bar, so we did enough.”

Minnesota stuck with their game and were rewarded by a key goal late in the second period. Fasching gained the blue line on the rush, Bristedt drove to the net creating space in the middle of the rink, and Michael Brodzinksi stepped into that space. The junior defenseman set and wired a wrist shot into the upper right corner beating Madsen’s glove. It was the defenseman’s fifth goal of the season at 19:41.

The Gophers tied the game 2-2 at 14:01 of the third period and again it was a combination play by Fasching and Bristedt leading to the goal. Fasching gained the blue line before moving the puck to his line mate, and then Bristedt made a move past the defenseman and across the crease before putting it five-hole for his ninth goal of the season.

“I think Harvard kind of sat back a little bit in the neutral zone,” said Steve Johnson. “So us defensemen stayed in the dot lanes and tried to move the puck up as quick as we can, have that north-south mentality, I think that’s pretty crucial, and not bring the puck back.”

Minnesota then took a lead 28 seconds later when Connor Reilly passed the puck from the corner to Johnson coming in from the point. Johnson fired a wrist shot to beat the goalie cleanly for his first goal as a Gopher.

Vesey had been held off the scoresheet all night until the final minute. The senior forward was near the crease to collect a puck from the point, confidently collected it, and delivered it to Kyle Criscuolo on the back door for a tap in at 19:26. Then in overtime Vesey lead an odd man rush for Harvard and again found Criscuolo for the game winner 2:39 into overtime.

“We’re on a 4-on-2 in overtime, we don’t make the play, they do good job, they get their stick on a puck and away they go,” said Lucia. “I think it was a 3-on-1 and wrong guys are on the ice for the 3-on-1.”

Gophers goaltender Eric Schierhorn had another solid game with a career high 35 saves including a huge one on a Lloyd breakaway late in the third period.

Lucia indicated he thinks the effort has been there all year for this team despite their sub. 500 record, but the coach admits there is a different between effort and execution.

“We’re not there yet, but at the same time I don’t think we’re that far away either,” said Lucia. “We’ve gotten better. We knew where this team was when we began and that’s the process, that we’re learning.”

Gophers goaltender Eric Schierhorn had another solid game with a career high 35 saves including a huge one on a Lloyd breakaway late in the third period.

Minnesota travels out to Happy Valley next weekend for a series with No. 14 Penn State, the Nittany Lions also are No. 10 in the PairWise. Friday’s game is an early 5:30 PM start on BTN and Saturdays game is a 2 PM face-off.