BOSTON — When a goalie makes his first start in nearly three full seasons, one might expect a bit of rust. For Northeastern’s Bryan Mountain, he went save-for-save against one of the best goalies in the nation, matching Casey DeSmith for 65 minutes as the University of New Hampshire and Northeastern battled to a 0-0 draw at Matthews Arena on Saturday night.
Northeastern coach Jim Madigan pegged Mountain to start tonight’s game immediately after Friday’s loss to UNH, when the Huskies surrendered a two-goal lead en route to a 4-3 defeat. Mountain entered that game in relief of Chris Rawlings, and his performance impressed Madigan enough to earn him the start.
“It was clear-cut; we told Bryan last night that he was going to be playing,” Madigan said, “The way he came in last night, playing the last 33 minutes, he played very well, he was in a rhythm. It was an easy decision based on his performance last night.”
Mountain hadn’t started a game since January 10, 2010, but he was more than up to the task, stopping 44 shots, many of which came from heart-stopping rebound chances. Mountain’s play was aggressive, stepping out of his crease to reduce shooting angles, including cutting down a short-handed breakaway chance for Kevin Goumas in the final minute of the first period.
“There were a few nerves in the first few minutes, [but] I was able to settle down quickly,” Mountain said, “I just wanted to help the team get two points. I figured that if I just focused on winning each period, not trying to do too much and help my team, everything would fall into place.”
Not to be outshined, DeSmith’s 33 saves included many through screens or traffic. Early in the second period, Huskies freshman Kevin Roy slotted a blind pass to Cam Darcy waiting at the top of the crease, but DeSmith tracked it the entire way, making a stop with his right pad in the nick of time.
“Our team played fantastic, so many scoring chances, so many shots on net,” DeSmith said after the game. “It’s been unbelievable having so much offense behind me [this season]. They bailed me out yesterday in a high-scoring game, and it was nice that I could come through for them when they couldn’t score, and get one point.”
Despite the final score, the game had a frenetic pace and a playoff feel to it. Both teams traded opportunities in transition, with a plethora of good scoring chances throughout.
It was also a clean game, with nine total penalties between the two teams, many of them matching minors for confrontations after the whistle. The lack of whistles opened up the pace of play, delivering a thrilling game and drawing roars from the near-capacity crowd of 4,564.
It was the first road test of the year for UNH, but the Wildcats withstood the pressure of a tight game to earn the point on the road.
“I thought the team responded very well; we competed well defensively,” UNH coach Dick Umile noted. “They got a couple of good scoring opportunities, and Casey came through. Generally speaking, we blocked shots, kept it to the outside, and played well down low.”
After the rough start to last season, Umile added that he and his team “were determined to make a statement this October.” The Wildcats have done just that, extending their unbeaten run to five games (4-0-1), while the Huskies moved to 2-2-1.
Both teams continue Hockey East play next Friday, as Northeastern begins a two-game series against Merrimack while UNH will face Massachusetts on the road.