DURHAM, N.H. – New Hampshire finished off the weekend sweep of Notre Dame with a 5-2 win. UNH’s Casey DeSmith shined in the win, making 32 saves for his 14th win of the season.
“He’s playing right where we want him to play,” New Hampshire coach Dick Umile said about DeSmith’s stellar performance “He’s playing with an awful lot of confidence.”
Wildcats’ captain Eric Knodel says he agrees with Umile about his goaltender’s rejuvenated focus.
“I think he is just getting back to the basics and just tracking the puck and making the first save, and after that just dealing with the situation as it comes. Sometimes I think he would just over think it.”
With the loss, Notre Dame’s struggles on the road in Hockey East continue. This season, the Irish are 1-5-0 on the road in their new conference.
“We shoot ourselves in the foot too many times,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. “I always say the biggest factor on the road is goaltending, discipline and special teams and UNH won all those battles tonight.”
Special teams was the story of the night when Matt Willows gave UNH the lead for good on a short-handed goal with just 3:43 left in the second period.
The two teams battled back and forth, as each answered the other after a goal until UNH finally broke away.
After UNH’s Matias Cleland was sent to the box for tripping, ND went on the power play. On the penalty kill, Willows raced into the Irish end on a breakaway. Willows dropped to left side and forced Notre Dame goaltender Steven Summerhays to bite on the backhand. Willows calmly went around the outstretched Summerhays and buried the forehand.
“It is very demoralizing when you are on the other end of it,” Umile said of the short-handed goal. “It just puts them on edge when they are on their power play and gets the momentum going the other way.”
New Hampshire took a two-goal lead 6:40 into the third period after a blown opportunity from the Irish to tie the game. After Notre Dame fired a shot over a wide-open net, the Wildcats rushed down ice. Collin MacDonald crashed the ND net and poked the puck through Summerhays’ five-hole.
The Wildcats tacked on one more in the final minute on an empty-net goal from Kevin Goumas, complete with a “Jagr Salute” for the students still in attendance.
“This is a huge confidence boost for us,” Knodel said. “It is huge for the Hockey East standings, and it bumps us up with there with the top teams and we know we should be there.”