Criscuolo’s Heroics Lead No. 7/7 Men’s Hockey to Mariucci Classic Title Against Minnesota

Harvard beat Minnesota, 4-3, in overtime to win the Mariucci Classic Saturday (Athletic Communications).

MINNEAPOLIS – Senior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo provided two of the most important goals to date for the No. 7/7 men's hockey team (8-1-3, 4-1-3 ECAC) Saturday to clinch the championship of the 25th Annual Mariucci Classic for the Crimson. The forward scored with 34 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime with Minnesota (8-9-0, 3-1-0 B1G) before earning the game-winner 2:39 into the extra period for the 4-3 win.

With the title secured at the Mariucci Saturday and the Shillelagh back in November, the Crimson has now won two regular-season tournaments for the first time in the 118-year history of the program. Saturday's win coming at Mariucci Arena in front of 9.726 spectators was the first win on the campus of the University of Minnesota for Harvard since a 7-6 overtime victory over the Gophers on Dec. 30, 1950.

Criscuolo finished as the tournament MVP with three goals and he leaves Minnesota with a team-high 10 thus far in the season. Joining him on the all-tournament team from Harvard was forward Seb Lloyd, who had a goal and assist in both games this weekend, and goaltender Merrick Madsen, who is now 7-0-2 as a starter.

Harvard got an early jump on the Gophers, scoring the game's first goal at 2:04 of the opening period. From behind the net, Michael Floodstrand found an open Sean Malone steps from the front of the Minnesota goal and the junior wristed his first tally of the season past Gopher netminder Eric Schierhorn.

Though it was the only score of the period, the first 20 minutes were filled with action. Just before the mid-point of the frame, Minnesota's Leon Bristedt was unable to convert an open net opportunity to the dismay of the loud home team crowd, while the rush the other direction ended with Luke Esposito failing to find the back of the net despite Schierhorn leaving his post to play the puck on the initial dump in. The only penalty was issued to Harvard and the penalty kill was able to withstand the Gopher's pressure, as Madsen made two great saves, including an impressive glove stop on a Tommy Novak shot on the door step.

Harvard's special teams played an important role in the second period, as the power play proved successful on its first opportunity of the game and the penalty kill erased another two-minute minor. The four-man penalty kill unit saw its action first, keeping the Gophers at bay for two minutes in the early stages before the man-advantage unit was called upon for the first time at 7:47. Minnesota was active early, killing off the first minute of the penalty with ease, but the Harvard power play established in the Gopher's zone late, leading to a hard shot from the point by Colin Blackwell that Lloyd nimbly deflected inside the far post to give Harvard a 2-0 advantage at 9:31. The goal was Lloyd's second of the tournament and the season.

The back-and-forth nature of the game continued through the remainder second stanza with Harvard's 2-0 lead holding up until there was 18.1 seconds left on the clock when Michael Brodzinski found the mesh with a wrister for his fifth of the year.

Harvard continued to cling to its one-goal lead through the first 14 minutes of the third period, but a 28-second span shifted the balance in favor of the Gophers. First, Leon Bristedt scored on a breakaway to even the score at 2-2 at 14:01 and then Steve Johnson followed with his first career goal less than 30 seconds later.

The Crimson entered the final minute down by one, but after using its timeout and pulling Madsen, Harvard took the ice for 6-on-5 play. The extra skater proved fruitful, as Criscuolo swiped home the equalizer with 34 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime. Luke Esposito and Jimmy Vesey worked to set up the goal before the puck slid to Criscuolo stationed at the post to Schierhorn's right.

Criscuolo and his linemates were not done. Following a full intermission, the teams returned to the ice prepared to play a full 20 minute sudden-death period, but it took just 2:39 for Criscuolo to again find the net. Vesey, this time behind the net, fed a pass out front that Criscuolo was able to get enough stick on, lifting it over Schierhorn for the golden goal.

Harvard returns home for the first time in two months to face No. 11/11 Boston University Thursday and then heads to New York to battle No. 3/2 Quinnipiac at Madison Square Garden next Saturday.