BOSTON - If Northeastern doesn't face New Hampshire sophomore goalie Casey DeSmith until the next decade, even then it will be too soon.
DeSmith made 34 saves during a scoreless tie at Northeastern on October 27. But he outdid himself Friday night as UNH posted a 3-1 victory in a Hockey East game.
The Rochester native stopped a season-high 47 shots including several on "testers."
At game's end, DeSmith had raised his save percentage to .921 and lowered his GAA to 2.17.
DeSmith's performance was noteworthy because it helped ease the sting of January losses to Boston College and Providence College and enabled third-ranked UNH (16-6-2, 11-5-1) to remain two points behind first-place Boston College and move two points ahead of Boston University into sole possession of second place. On Friday night, BC beat Vermont, 4-1, while BU fell at UMass, 5-1.
UNH gets right back into action tonight at home against Merrimack (7 p.m., WBIN TV).
"It's always good when you're winning," DeSmith said. "Sometimes you have tough games and it's a skill to be able to bounce back.
"We had a rough game at BC and then we came back and beat them at home. Then, we had a tough game against Providence. I played against Merrimack (a 6-2 victory) and felt pretty good in that game. Obviously, I don't like losing as much as the next guy. But it's good that we were able to come back and get wins after I had a few tough games."
After a scoreless first period, UNH emerged from the second with a 2-1 lead.
Grayson Downing gave UNH a 1-0 lead at 4:01 when he flicked a backhander into an open net with Chris Rawlings (24 saves) out of position.
Downing's goal ended a UNH scoreless streak at Matthews Arena that had reached 150 minutes and 20 seconds.
Eric Knodel made it 2-0 just 44 seconds later when he gunned home a slap shot from the high slot.
Northeastern sliced its deficit in half at 7:25 when Vinny Saponari poked home the rebound of a Kevin Roy shot.
A late second-period penalty on Saponari carried over into the third and set up a well-executed power-play goal by John Henrion. Kevin Goumas slid a cross-ice pass to Henrion, who beat Rawlings on a one-timer at 1:40 for a 3-1 lead.
"It was a really close game the whole way through," Henrion said. "There were chances back and forth. Rawlings is a great goaltender so anytime you can score on him and take a two-goal lead it makes it a little more comfortable.
"Obviously, we still needed to finish out the game strong - stay on the attack and make sure we played defense correctly."
UNH coach Dick Umile wasn't able to exhale until after the final buzzer. "We knew it was going to be a battle coming down here," he said. "They're a good team and obviously everybody saw it tonight. It was a back-and-forth game.
"That third goal by John was huge for us, and Casey stood tall ... Casey's back playing well and the team is trying to keep the Grade A shots to a minimum."