Two of the best goaltenders in Hockey East stole the show Wednesday night in front of a sparse crowd at Providence's Schneider Arena. The game was postponed from the originally scheduled Friday contest because of the blizzard that affected the region. UNH sophomore Casey DeSmith and Friars freshman Jon Gillies both made point blank saves to keep the game scoreless for the first 57 minutes of the game.
The difference was a nice individual effort by Providence senior alternate captain Tim Schaller with just under three minutes to play in the game. Schaller made a terrific move to break into the zone where he fed Jankowski who slid it over to a charging Stefan Demopoulos just coming off the bench from a line change. The fourth line sophomore buried the puck into the back of the net before DeSmith could slide over to cover that side of the net. It was Demopoulos' first game back following a second finger injury of the season. The La Mesa, California native said when he saw the wide open net that he had thought, "It was just so wide open, just don't miss the net."
Following that late strike, the Friars hung on in the final minutes as UNH pulled its goaltender to gain the extra attacker. Gillies made one nice kick save, but other than that UNH couldn't really muster much in the way of sustained pressure or quality chances.
The game was called very tightly with eleven penalties called in the game, including a penalty shot in the final minute of the second period. The game had very little flow to it with the amount of time spent on the penalty kill for both teams. After the game, Leaman spoke of how well his team performed while down a man. "Our penalty kill came up big. We took three penalties there in the third period. It showed some immaturity, but the penalty killers went out and got the job done, and Jon Gillies was outstanding. He needed to be."
Although the big story was the Demopoulos game winner with under three minutes to play, the consistent theme throughout the game was outstanding goaltending. Gillies made 37 saves for the shutout while DeSmith saved 33 of 34 shots faced in the loss. Leaman described DeSmith as an elite goaltender and was happy his freshman "stood the test." It was the fourth shutout of his rookie season for Gillies, the Calgary Flames prospect.
The referees awarded PC sophomore Ross Mauermann a penalty shot after he was hauled down on a breakaway by Justin Agosta. The Janesville, Wisconsin native elected to go backhand on DeSmith who made a nice glove save.
The win moved Providence into sole possession of third place. Nate Leaman's team took five of six points on the season from the Wildcats. The Friars (11-10-6, 9-6-5 HE) will face Merrimack Sunday while UNH (16-8-3, 11-7-2 HE) will travel to Chestnut Hill Sunday to battle BC. Dick Umile's club remains tied for second place with Merrimack, but has played one more game.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.