Sophomore Casey DeSmith made a season-high 47 saves as New Hampshire won on the road at Northeastern on Friday, 3-1. The Wildcats return to Whittemore Center on Saturday to face Merrimack in Hockey East's only game.
BOSTON -- After an outstanding scoreless tie on Oct. 27, 2012 at Matthews Arena, it was difficult to imagine what Northeastern and No. 3/4 New Hampshire could do for an encore on Friday night in Boston.
With a goal early in the final period, the Wildcats pulled away and took a 3-1 victory from the host Huskies to take a sweep of the Hockey East season series at 2-0-1 as well as three of a possible four points on St. Botolph Street.
"Needless to say, we knew it was going to be a battle coming down here," said UNH head coach Dick Umile. "They are a good team and obviously, I think everybody saw it tonight. It was a heck of a game back-and-forth and our guys battled back."
The defeat continued a seven-game home winless streak for the Huskies, dating back to a weekend sweep of Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 11, 2011. Reaching that mark is a first for Northeastern in the last seven seasons.
"I did not think there was enough energy from us coming out of our own building," said NU head coach Jim Madigan, whose team dropped the season series to UNH in a 2-0-1 sweep. "We have to find a better way to hold home court better than we have lately…It used to be a tough place for people to come in to play and we just have not made it that way."
The teams played to a very even first period in the old barn, attempting 26 chances each with six blocked shots per side. However, neither side was able to get much in the way of quality scoring.
Things picked up in the second period with the Huskies holding another shots advantage at 17-11, but the Wildcats took the lead with two quick goals in less than a minute to take a 2-1 lead.
UNH jumped ahead at the 4:01 of the middle period as sophomore Grayson Downing deposited a very quick rebound off a pass from rookie linemate Dan Correale in front of senior Chris Rawlings. At 4:45, junior defender Eric Knodel launched a top-shelf wrist shot from the blue line that eluded Rawlings' left shoulder and found the back of the net for his seventh goal of the season.
The Huskies got one back on a broken play in front of Wildcat sophomore Casey DeSmith at the 7:25 mark as senior Vinny Saponari had the last touch on a loose puck to lift the home side within one.
Rookies Kevin Roy and Colton Saucerman, who each spent last season with the USHL's Lincoln Stars, had the first touches in the low slot, setting up their captain with the dish on the post for his fifth goal of the season and seventh point in the last five games.
As has been the case all season long, the Wildcats showed poise early in the third period as they took advantage of a late penalty to Saponari with a power-play goal off the stick of senior John Henrion. The Holden, Mass. native posted his ninth goal of the season, capping off a cross-ice pass from junior Kevin Goumas with an emphatic finish.
"We had a couple rough games," DeSmith, a Rochester, N.H. native said. "It’s tough to bounce back and I am glad I have started to play well again for the team…It has just been confidence and the team playing well in front of me."
The Huskies ran into the hot hand of DeSmith, who rebounded from an off night against Merrimack last Friday for a 47-save performance, improving to 15-4-2.
"Casey is back and playing well. He’s done that well the past couple games," Umile said. "The team is battling hard in front and trying to keep the shots to a minimum as far as the Grade-A shots…When they got inside of us, he came up big when he had to."
NU returns to the ice on Monday night as it opens the 61st Annual Beanpot Tournament against Boston University at the TD Garden. It will mark the first meeting between the teams on Causeway Street since the 2010 semifinals - the longest drought the sides can have without locking against each other.
"I liked the effort," said Madigan of his team’s final performance against the Wildcats this year. "I told the team if we can get that same effort for the last 34 minutes of the game [next time], we will be ready to play, but at the end of the day, we missed a chance for two points and we are still scrambling to get in the playoff hunt."
Joshua Kummins covers Hockey East for SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKummins.