Gophers Convert Big Lead, Beat Harvard 4-2

Minneapolis, MN – After a weekend of blown leads at Michigan, Minnesota fans could not be blamed for wondering whether this Gopher team had it in them to convert leads into victories.

Friday’s Harvard game provided a good test.

After losing three- and four-goal leads last weekend, the #7-ranked Gophers (8-4-1 Overall, 3-2-1-1 B1G) salted away a four-goal lead against #13 Harvard (2-4-0 Overall, 0-1-0 ECAC), bending but not breaking in the third period to secure a 4-2 win.

As has been customary recently, Minnesota got off to a hot start in the first, with Brent Gates scoring the first goal of the game at 13:22 of the period.  Tommy Novak lost the offensive-zone draw to the left of Harvard goaltender Merrick Madsen before picking the pocket of the Harvard puck carrier in the corner and backhanding a pass into the slot for Gates’ 5th goal of the season.  The Gophers increased their lead to 2-0 on Rem Pitlick’s team-leading 6th goal of the year at 18:17, with Casey Mittelstadt picking up his 7th assist on the play.

The Gophers increased their lead to 3-0 in the middle of the 2nd when Steve Johnson collected a rebound at the side of the net and slipped it in.  The 9:51 goal was assisted by Tyler Nanne and Mike Szmatula.  The lead again bulged to 4-0 when Casey Mittelstadt scored his 4th goal of the year on a wicked snapshot from the top of the circle that Madsen had absolutely no chance on.  Ryan Zuhlsdorf and Sam Rossini picked up assists on the Mittelstadt snipe at 16:44 of the second.

Here we go again, though.  Harvard’s Jack Badini scored just 52 seconds into the 3rd on a slapshot from the left circle that beat Gopher goalie Eric Schierhorn five-hole, and again at 8:50 when Ryan Donato picked up a rebound and got it past Schierhorn to cut the lead to 4-2.

The Gophers almost immediately gave Harvard a golden opportunity to creep back within one and really put the pressure on Minnesota, with Brent Gates taking an interference penalty at 11:30.  Harvard’s power play, led by All-American sophomore defenseman Adam Fox, was held scoreless by the Gopher PK, but Harvard kept pressing, drawing yet another penalty with 2:50 left in the game.  The Crimson pulled goalie Madsen to get an extra attacker and try to cut the Gopher lead to just one goal, but Eric Schierhorn made some timely saves to secure the 4-2 victory for Minnesota.

The final shots on goal were 28-27 in favor of the Crimson.  The Gopher power play was 0-3 on the night, while the penalty kill held Harvard 0-4.  Casey Mittelstadt was announced as the game’s first star tallying one goal and one assist, while Brent Gates (1G) and Sam Rossini (1A) picked up the second and third stars of the game.

Friday night’s game was also the first time we’ve seen Sam Rossini play a regular shift at D.  His previous action was as the team’s extra D-man, but he played the full game and acquitted himself nicely on the blueline.

The Gophers and Crimson square-off again Saturday at 7PM.  The game can be seen on FSN Plus, streamed on BTN2Go and Fox Sports Go, and heard on AM1130.

Go Gophers!