DURHAM, N.H. — New Hampshire won its fifth straight game with a 4-1 win over Northeastern Saturday.
The Wildcats won their first game of the year, but hit a slump when they picked up just one point in six games bringing their record to 1-5-1.
Since that time, they’ve won five straight, including back-to-back weekend sweeps of Hockey East opponents.
“We knew, and I have said this several times, that we were playing good hockey,” UNH coach Dick Umile said about the early-season troubles. “We didn’t have a whole lot to show for it, but we stayed positive. Obviously, we are getting good goaltending and now we are on a roll and the guys are playing with confidence.”
One of the key components is goaltender Casey DeSmith, who gave up just one goal on the weekend.
“Whenever you are winning, everything is fun,” DeSmith said. “In practice, we have been having some fun and on and off the ice, we are in good spirits and hopefully, that will help us continue to play better on the ice.”
After mustering only a handful of shots midway through the middle frame, New Hampshire took a 2-0 lead with two goals in 40 seconds.
The first came 12:59 into the second on a heads-up play from Nick Sorkin. Erick Knodel dished a pass to Trevor van Riemsdyk at the top of the slot. His shot went wide of the net and bounced off the end boards to Sorkin at the right post. He quickly controlled the puck and tipped it past Northeastern goaltender Derick Roy for the one-goal lead.
Less than a minute later, Jeff Silengo’s quick thinking produced a second goal. Silengo skated into the zone and lost control of the puck in the slot. Silengo recovered the puck and dropped it off for Justin Agosta, who fired a shot under Roy’s outstretched right leg where Casey Thrush poked it home for his first goal of the season.
“I thought the goalie had it covered as I skated in, but I didn’t hear the whistle,” Thrush said. “I just put everything I had under his pad and I ended up guessing right where it was and it trickled in for me.”
The Huskies cut into the Wildcats’ lead early into the third period after Grayson Downing took his third penalty of the game. A Colton Saucerman shot from the outside deflected off of Mike Szmatula on the left side of the goal mouth. The puck bounced across the crease to the right side where Kevin Roy blasted it past DeSmith.
Downing leads the Wildcats in penalties with 11 trips to the penalty box in 12 games.
“I think I have been working almost too hard to make that extra play defensively, to take that puck away and obviously, that has ended up with me in the box,” Downing said. “Luckily, we have a good goaltender in net and good penalty kill, so my penalties haven’t cost our team.”
Three UNH penalties in the first half of the third period opened the door for continued pressure from the Huskies.
“In the third period, I thought we played well,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. “We got some power plays and we scored on one to make it 2-1, but we didn’t get a good enough clear on their third goal.”
Despite the effort, Northeastern couldn’t claw its way any closer as the Wildcats tacked on two more goals in the third to secure the win.