UNH Nips Harvard 1-0

Allston, MA – Senior Jackson Pierson‘s breakaway goal at 9:37 of the third period was the difference in a tightly contested non-conference game on Friday night at Bright-Landry Hockey Center. The University of New Hampshire Wildcats held on to a 1-0 win over host Harvard University Crimson in the two teams’ first meeting since 2013.

Michael Robinson turned back all twenty-seven Harvard shots to earn his second straight win. Crimson goalie Mitchell Gibson was equally stellar in defeat, turning back twenty-three of twenty-four Wildcats shots. With the 1-0 victory, UNH improves to 6-7-1, the Crimson is 5-3-1. 

Two thousand forty-two witnessed a fast-paced, physical game with plenty of scoring opportunities. This season, the Wildcats have struggled to put points on the board, while the Crimson is an offensive juggernaut. Robinson and Mitchell traded saves throughout the sixty-minute affair.

Tyler Ward had a clean look at the Crimson net early on when he streaked in from the left boards after getting the jump on Harvard’s defense, but Mitchell got a shoulder on the Wildcats’ senior forward.

Harvard’s Sean Farrell and Casey Dornbach had three quick chances kept out of the Wildcats net by Robinson before the halfway mark of the opening period. Farrell fired off a shot from the right face-off dot. Then the sophomore followed up his rebound with a shot from his knees at the bottom of the circle. Dornbach had a swipe on the rebound that Robinson smothered. 

Sophomore defenseman Luke Reid‘s Boarding penalty at 3:16 of the second gave the Crimson’s potent power-play its first chance of the game. The Wildcats have one of the top penalty-kills in NCAA hockey and had a short-handed bid by Jackson thwarted by Gibson. 

Harvard killed off a Farrell Slashing penalty midway through the period allowing only one Wildcat shot on goal. That shot, by Harrison Blaisdell, hit the post.

With UNH defenseman Nikolai Jensen in the penalty box for Holding, the Crimson again had a man advantage. Still, they surrendered a short-handed bid while only generating one shot on goal for themselves.

Jackson’s goal at 9:37 came when he broke up a pass between the Crimson’s R.J. Murphy and Ryan Seidem and was off to the races against Mitchell. Jackson beat Mitchell through the legs for his sixth goal of the season. It was his 25th career goal as well. 

UNH had a power-play at 12:59 with Nick Abruzzese off for Holding. The Crimson penalty-kill was equally effective and held the Wildcats to only one shot on goal during the two minutes.

The Crimson had one final push with a power-play at 17:29. Wildcats defenseman Alex Gagne was off for Interference. Harvard pulled Gibson with around 1:38 remaining and time left on the power play for a six-on-four. The Crimson threw all they had at Robinson and the Wildcats, but the penalty-kill was effective, limiting the scoring chances and clearing the puck the length of the ice on a few occasions.

“I was really proud of our guys,” said UNH coach Mike Souza. “We had a similar situation last weekend against UMass. We had to kill a penalty late in the game. Our penalty kill come through huge six-on-four.”

“I thought our guys had a lot of push,” said Souza. “Scoring goals is difficult for the Wildcats. It was a great team win.”

“It was a great game,” said Robinson. “Defensively, it was a really great game. Offensively, I thought we did a lot of things well. I think we had a lot of chances, we could have put a couple more (goals) up, but it’s a good team win. We’ll take it.”

“Definitely a little bit of a boost for us,” added the San Jose Sharks prospect. “Back-to-back wins, so keep the momentum going.”

“Disappointed, but the game was pretty much back and forth. It could have gone either way,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato. “I think we make a mistake, and in some ways, just hand their leading scorer a breakaway. In a zero-zero game, halfway through the third, that’s a tough thing to swallow.”

“When all is said and done, I just don’t think we won enough races to pucks. I don’t think we won enough one-one battles to be able to sustain offense. We had some looks; they had some looks. I thought both goalies we solid. We need to generate a lot more, and I just think our execution, it looked like we were fighting the puck a lot throughout the night.”

The Wildcats host Holy Cross on Saturday night at the Whittemore Center in Durham, NH, at 7:00 pm EST. Harvard had their game on Tuesday against Boston College canceled due to the Eagles’ COVID situation. Their next game is Friday against Brown in Providence, RI.