UMass hockey: Kenny Connors nets winner as Minutemen outlast Harvard, 6-5

UMass athletics

Published: 11-24-2023 11:35 PM

Modified: 11-24-2023 11:34 PM

The 11th-ranked UMass hockey team erased three different deficits as 13 different Minutemen contributed points in a 6-5 come-from-behind victory at No. 20 Harvard on Friday.

With the win, UMass improved to 9-3-1, while the Crimson fell to 1-2-3 on the year.

"That's as dominant of a game that I've had a team play here in a long time," said UMass head coach Greg Carvel. "I thought our team was outstanding tonight. We played to our identity really well. I thought we were all over them all night long, we just didn't get saves. We've seen that before recently and we've got to get that part figured out, but otherwise this team is moving in a great direction."

Harvard opened the scoring on a delayed penalty with Michael Callow finding Ryan Fine alone at the top of the crease to knock the puck home at the 2:20 mark.

The Crimson then converted on the ensuing power play with Ryan Healey firing a shot through traffic that found its way to the back of the net off a feed from Cam Johnson and Marek Hejduk at 4:21.

UMass cut its deficit in half in the final minute of the first period when freshman Aydar Suniev collected a pass from junior Ryan Ufko at the right point and centered the puck for freshman Jack Musa in the slot for the power-play goal.

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At the 1:35 mark of the second period, junior Scott Morrow tied the score at 2-2 after skating out of the Massachusetts end and stickhandling his way into the slot for the tally.

Healey responded, though, to put Harvard back on top with his second of the contest 3:45 into the period.

Senior Linden Alger evened things up at 3-3 with his first of the season, tucking a wrister inside the far post off a pass from juniors Ryan Lautenbach and Lucas Mercuri at 4:08.

The Crimson answered once again with a power-play goal from Alex Gaffney at point-blank range, set up by Philip Tresca and Joe Miller 6:20 into the second.

Cam Johnson put home a tough-angle shot for Harvard at the 16:31 mark to chase goaltender Michael Hrabal from the net, giving the Crimson a two-goal edge at 5-3.

Before the intermission, Lucas Vanroboys closed the gap to one once more for UMass with his third of the year from senior Aaron Bohlinger and freshman Cam O'Neill at the 17:20 mark.

With the second penalty in a 5-on-3 power-play about to expire, Mercuri capitalized for the Minutemen as sophomore Kenny Connors and Samuli Niinisaari set him up for an open net 4:40 into the third.

Connors followed with the game winner at 7:38, tucking the puck behind goaltender Aku Koskenvuo off a feed from Cole O'Hara at the net front after the puck came from Niinisaari at the point.

UMass finished the contest with a 49-22 shot advantage and both teams went 2-for-5 on the power play. The Minutemen were a dominant 51-for-74 (68.9%) over the faceoff dots, led by Vanroboys' perfect 11-for-11 (100%) effort and Mercuri's 15-for-22 (68.2%) performance.

Cole Brady made seven saves and played the final 23:29 for UMass between the pipes to pick up the victory, while Koskenvuo totaled 43 stops for Harvard.

The Minutemen will be back in action on Dec. 1, when the squad travels to Burlington, Vt., for its rubber match of the season series against the Catamounts at 7 p.m.