PROVIDENCE, R.I. — New Hampshire’s Stevie Moses scored the only goal of the game early in the second period and Wildcat goaltender Casey DeSmith (26 saves) earned both his first career win and first shutout as UNH blanked Providence, 1-0, in front of a sparse midweek crowd of 1,205 at Schneider Arena.
The victory extends UNH’s unbeaten streak against the Friars to 15 games (13-0-2) dating back to Feb. 24, 2007. It is the team’s first road win of the season and allows the Wildcats (7-11-2, 5-8-1 Hockey East) to leapfrog Massachusetts and Northeastern in the Hockey East standings to seventh place, two points in back of the sixth-place Friars (8-9-2, 6-5-1 Hockey East).
DeSmith’s shutout came in just his third career start, moving past starting goaltender Mike DiGirolamo, who struggled much of the first half of season. DeSmith started UNH’s final game of the first half of the season, making 32 saves in a 2-1 loss to Boston University. He then loss a heartbreaking 5-4 overtime decision to rival Maine last Saturday night at Fenway Park.
“It was really exciting,” said DeSmith, who became the first UNH rookie to earn a shutout since Brian Foster did so in the 2006-07 season. “The team played so well defensively. There were hardly any odd-man rushes. I got some bounces, so everything was going my way tonight.”
Indeed, defense was the story of the night for the Wildcats. Having struggled through much of the year to limit quality chances, UNH snuffed out any offense Providence had and those shots that did get through easily were turned aside by DeSmith.
“We defended well tonight,” said UNH head coach Dick Umile. “Defensively, and when I say defense I include our forwards, we blocked shots, didn’t allow many odd-man rushes. We defended well.
“We got only one goal, but that’s all we needed.”
For the Friars, Wednesday night was a night of frustration, something that has been a theme since the team returned from break. Head coach Nate Leaman said the problem is simple: his team simply isn’t putting forth the effort necessary to win.
“Since we’ve come back [from break], we’re not playing with an edge,” Leaman said. “We’re not attacking with an edge, we’re not approaching faceoffs with an edge.
“The battle level has to be a heck of a lot higher than it is for us right now.”
After a scoreless first period, New Hampshire struck first when Moses, the team’s lead goal and point scorer, struck at 6:41. Working a perfect cycle off the halfboards, Moses took a pass from linemate Nick Sorkin, cut to the slot and unloaded a high wrist shot that beat Providence goaltender Alex Beaudry (25 saves).
The Wildcats had chances to extend the lead in the second when Providence was whistled for back-to-back minor penalties. UNH’s power play, which entered the game without a goal in its last 17 attempts, struggled to get pucks to the net, allowing the Friars to escape down just a goal heading to the final period.
Providence began the third period on a carryover power play after John Henrion was called for interference with 58 seconds remaining in the second. With the man advantage, the Friars generated what might have been their best attempt to even the score. Just 18 seconds in, Drew Brown was alone at the left post with DeSmith well out of position. Unable to pull the trigger right away, his shot became a harmless one that DeSmith stopped.
After each team called their timeouts, the Friars made one last-ditch effort to even things. A blocked shot from the left point resulted in a jump ball and the puck squirted to rookie Ross Mauermann. His rushed shot floated just wide of the post, hitting the outside of the net, sealing the win and shutout for DeSmith.
Each team will return to action over the weekend with single games. New Hampshire will play its annual game against Dartmouth in Manchester, the Battle for the Riverstone Cup. Providence will continue Hockey East play, traveling to Vermont for a single game on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.