LOWELL, Mass. — There may not be a ‘D’ in New Hampshire, but you’d have a hard time convincing its opponents. UNH entered the game as the top defensive team in the country, averaging only 1.38 goals-against per game, and improved on that mark with a 3-0 win over Massachusetts-Lowell.
The shutout represented the third consecutive whitewashing by the Wildcats and goaltender Casey DeSmith. One has to go all the way back to the 1928-29 season in the UNH record book to match that achievement. With a scoreless streak that has now reached 178:52, DeSmith now needs only a few minutes to top the team record of 181:31, set in 1968-69 (over the course of four games).
DeSmith stopped all 23 shots, but was greatly aided by a team defense that held Mass.-Lowell to only 12 shots over the first two periods and took only a single penalty in the entire game.
“The team is playing unbelievable defense right now,” DeSmith said. “All the credit goes to them. They’re not letting much through. [But] when you get on a run like this, pucks aren’t going in that might have gone in before.”
Defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk scored a goal and added an assist while being a major part of the UNH defensive effort.
“Everyone is committed to blocking shots,” he said. “We don’t care if it hurts a little bit. We’ll get over it tomorrow.”
Midway through the third, Grayson Downing added a big insurance goal — “sick” in the lingo of hockey players — and Austin Block closed out the scoring in the final minute.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats, who travel to Boston University on Sunday, are now 7-1-1.
“Team defense has been really solid for us,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “We want to be a tough team to play against. The guys stayed with it and we played very smart at the end of the game.”
The win did come at a price. First-line center Greg Burke left in the first period with a shoulder injury and fourth-liner Jay Camper suffered a head injury in the second.
For Mass.-Lowell, the frustrations continue for a team projected in the preseason to finish second in Hockey East, but which with the loss now stands at 2-5-1.
“We had a couple opportunities early in the game, but those didn’t go in,” Mass.-Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “The guys are fighting it a little bit.”
The River Hawks will look to rebound on Sunday at Massachusetts.
UNH outshot its hosts, 11-5, in a scoreless first period, and then 14-7 in the second while taking a 1-0 lead.
The goal came on a pseudo power play of sorts. Riley Wetmore took a shot in the foot and went down hard. With no stoppage of play forthcoming, he gamely tried to cover his position while clearly unable to put any weight on the foot. When he directed the puck into the corner, he even got River Hawks fans chanting his name.
Van Riemsdyk, however, capitalized on Wetmore’s handicap, walking down from the right point and ripping a sniper shot from the faceoff circle. It was the defenseman’s fourth goal of the year.
The Wildcats couldn’t widen the lead during two conventional power plays, but took a 2-0 lead at 10:52 of the third. Taking advantage of a bad pinch by a Mass.-Lowell defender, Downing and Kevin Goumas combined on a two-on-one through center ice. Downing carried all the way to the right doorstep, then roofed a backhander over Doug Carr.
Austin Block finished off the scoring with a power-play goal with 19 seconds remaining, converting the rebound of a Connor Hardowa shot.