DURHAM, N.H. — “0-0 after two periods. UNH scored in the third. 1-0. The game ended.”
That’s how Northeastern coach Jim Madigan described his team’s 1-0 loss to New Hampshire in the first game of a Hockey East quarterfinal game Friday night.
The loss gives the Wildcats two chances to clinch a berth in the semifinal game at the TD Garden, with Northeastern now having to win the next two games to get there.
The Huskies did see the return of captain Josh Manson and Matt Benning, who missed the last four games due to injury.
Scoreless through 40 minutes, UNH tallied the eventual game-winner in the third period.
Just 4:49 into the final stanza, Tyler Kelleher’s fourth goal of the season gave UNH the 1-0 lead. Grayson Downing’s shot kicked out in front of Northeastern goalie Clay Witt and left a wide-open net for Kelleher to knock it home.
The first period began with New Hampshire getting a lot of scoring chances early, but neither team was able to find the back of the net, despite the Wildcats outshooting the Huskies 14-8 in the frame.
Kevin Goumas had the best scoring chance in the first for the Wildcats, but the cross-ice pass was deflected by Jarrett Fennell.
The second period featured five different power-play opportunities for Northeastern, but the Huskies were only able to get a combined six shots off on the man-advantage.
New Hampshire dominated most of the rest of the third period and held off a relentless Northeastern attack in the final minute of play.
Witt finished the game with 34 saves, while Wildcats’ goalie Casey DeSmith stopped 27 pucks.
When asked about the lack of shots on the power playm Madigan reiterated his message he has said all year long – it’s quality over quantity.
“I don’t really look at shots, to be honest,” Madigan said. “I look at quality opportunities, which I’ve talked about all year and we had some good looks. The goalie made a couple good saves, we couldn’t score.”
UNH coach Dick Umile was very pleased with the way his team played defensively in the game.
“I thought the guys did a pretty good job,” Umile said. “The first period, I thought we came out and played well. And the second period, we got involved with penalties which wasn’t great, but we kind of got it back together, played well defensively and did a great job on the kill.
“Casey had to make a couple big saves here and there, but overall, we kept it out on the perimeter.”