Lettieri breakaway at 11:10 of the third clinches game for Gophers
Win is Lucia’s 700th coaching victory
Boston, MA – Coming off a gut-wrenching loss at Northeastern Friday night, the Gophers needed something good to happen to turn around the road trip.
A trip to Boston College’s Conte Forum was just what the doctor ordered.
Minnesota (6-4-2) fought through adversity, including a disallowed game-tying goal, to prevail over the #4 Boston College Eagles (11-4-1) 4-2 Sunday afternoon.
The Gophers road trip started on a sour note Friday night as Northeastern scored a goal at 35 seconds of the first period. Sunday was nicer to Minnesota, as they were able to turn the tables and score an early goal of their own at 34 seconds of the first. Junior Gates tallied the early goal, with assists from Vinni Lettieri and Mike Szmatula, to give Minnesota an early 1-0 lead.
The Gophers would hold that lead until early in the second, when two quick BC goals (at 2:10 and 4:34 of the middle frame) gave the Eagles a 2-1 lead. Boston College poured on the pressure in the middle of the second period, but the Gophers held firm with good defense and solid goaltending from Eric Schierhorn.
It appeared that Minnesota had tied the game with just under five minutes left in the second period when a puck banked in off of Lettieri and into the net, but upon review the goal was waived off – Lettieri was in the crease and interfered with the goaltender. It appeared that Lettieri had been checked into the crease by BC’s Matthew Gaudreau, but that factor must not have been on the referee’s minds as they nullified the Gopher goal.
Minnesota continued the pressure, though, and got the tying goal just a few minutes later, at 18:08 of the second period, when Tyler Sheehy’s wrister from the wing glanced off the inside of the post and into the net. Justin Kloos and Jake Bischoff assisted on the game-tying goal.
The teams traded powerplay chances early in the third period, but neither was able to take the lead on the man-advantage. The Gophers were able to break the tie when Vinni Lettieri beat BC goalie Joe Woll on a breakaway at 11:10 to pull ahead 3-2. Gates and Mike Szmatula assisted on the Lettieri goal.
The Eagles pulled Woll with just over one minute remaining, but Szmatula was able to break free and score to give Minnesota its final winning margin of 4-2. Eric Schierhorn was solid between the pipes for the Gophers, stopping 31 of 33 shots in the winning effort.
The Gophers were 0-4 on the powerplay, but were able to hold BC to zero powerplay goals in three chances for the Eagles. The three stars of the game as picked by Frank Mazzocco were 1) Vinni Lettieri (1G-2A), 2) Mike Szmatula (1G-2A) and 3) Junior Gates (1G-1A).
The win marked Gopher Coach Don Lucia’s 700th coaching victory in his career. Lucia is currently sixth all-time in D1 coaching victories.
Minnesota finishes their early-season non-conference schedule with a respectable 6-4-2 record. The Gophers have quality wins over North Dakota, Boston College and Minnesota State in the bag already, which will bode well for them come NCAA Tournament time. The team enters Big Ten conference play next weekend with a tilt against a solid Ohio State Buckeyes team. The buckeyes are 8-1-4 overall with a season-opening win over a good Denver team. The Buckeyes haven’t played many other quality teams yet, and their only loss came at the hands of Robert Morris.
Minnesota and Ohio State face off at 8PM on Friday 12/2. The game will be televised on BTN, and is on your radio dial at AM1500.