BOSTON — For the first time in four games, New Hamsphire goaltender Casey DeSmith wasn’t perfect.
But he wasn’t much less than perfect and he was more than good enough.
After posting three consecutive shutouts, the sophomore finally saw his shutout streak end at 204 minutes and 40 seconds – a UNH record. Unfortunately for host Boston University, that was the only goal he surrendered, as DeSmith stopped 45 of 46 shots to lead the No. 5 Wildcats to a 3-1 win over No. 11 BU.
Junior Kevin Goumas scored two goals, including an empty-netter with 0.1 seconds left on the clock, and freshman Maxim Gaudreault’s first collegiate goal proved to be the game-winner for UNH.
Freshman goalie Matt O’Connor stood out for BU with 33 saves.
Thanks to receiving the first seven power plays of the game, BU outshot UNH by a 46-35 margin. This was a deceptive statistic, however, as the Terriers were badly outplayed in the first period and struggled to generate grade ‘A’ scoring chances most of the game due to the stingy Wildcat defense.
“Obviously, we’re pleased with the outcome,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “I thought our penalty kill was excellent tonight. Obviously, it needed to be. We had a couple of five-on-threes and a lot of penalties to kill and I was pleased with how the team responded. It was a good win for us.”
“It’s great for Casey; he’s playing unreal,” UNH senior captain Connor Hardowa said. “It’s nice to have that confidence in the back of the net. He’s keeping everything out. Maybe he let one slip by today, but he still had an unbelievable game.”
Meanwhile, BU coach Jack Parker lamented his team’s performance, particularly in the early going.
“I thought UNH was the much better team this afternoon,” Parker said. “Even though the shots are in our favor and we had a territorial advantage at times, I thought they played great defensively. It’s hard to say it’s a shutdown when we get 46 shots, but it was a shutdown because we didn’t get very many chances.”
“We weren’t ready to play,” Parker added when asked about his team’s first period, when the Terriers had some bad turnovers and struggled in their own zone. “We gave up 20 shots in the first period. We’d been moving the puck extremely well in every game this year and we just fumbled and bumbled the puck all over the place. In our zone, we couldn’t get it out. We couldn’t get it over the red line. We kept carrying the puck 10 feet into their zone and churned it up and they just swarmed us.”
Austin Block had a good chance just 10 seconds into the game for UNH and Dalton Speelman almost scored three minutes later, robbed by a great glove save by O’Connor. UNH made it 1-0 at 11:34 when Ryan Santana’s pass in his own zone was knocked down by Speelman before Goumas picked up the puck and buried a long wrist shot.
Less than three minutes later, Gaudreault scored off of the rebound of a Justin Agosta shot from the right point. The freshman seemed to have plenty of time to take the rebound and maneuver the puck around before slipping it under the big goalie.
A penalty spree by the Wildcats shifted the shot totals heavily in the second period, but UNH almost made it 3-0 while shorthanded due to a BU brain cramp. Trying to avoid an intentional off-sides call, BU let UNH get possession in their own end.
Forward Cason Hohmann broke to the bench for a line change and the combination of events led to a total breakaway for Block, only to have O’Connor make the save.
BU scored just over a minute later. Freshman Matt Grzelcyk made a terrific end-to-end rush, weaving through the whole Wildcat team before cutting through two defenders for a shot on goal. DeSmith stopped it, but freshman Danny O’Regan buried the rebound.
It stayed 2-1 for a long while, despite the stretch of seven BU power plays that resulted in Umile fuming at the bench at the end of the second period. The UNH coach wanted to have a word with referees Jeff Bunyon and Jack Millea, but they ignored him and went to their locker room.
BU played its best period in the third, but still struggled to get many great chances. With the goalie pulled, Yasin Cisse had the best chance for BU, but DeSmith made another stop. Goumas sealed it with an empty-net goal just before the buzzer could sound.
UNH has now given up just 12 goals in 10 games this season as well as only three goals in its last six games.
“I think it’s just a collective commitment in our defensive zone,” Hardowa said. “It’s taken a team effort every game, from Casey out to the defensemen and forward. As long as everyone’s on the same page, things are going to get done.”