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February 24. 2012 10:56PM

UNH earns spot in playoffs

AMHERST, Mass. — University of New Hampshire coach Dick Umile wasn’t exactly evasive when analyzing the Wildcats’ 4-3 victory Friday night over Massachusetts in a Hockey East game.

“We got outplayed badly in the second period,” Umile said referring to the fact UMass out-shot UNH by a 25-5 margin. “Casey (DeSmith), obviously, won the game for us.

“We made a couple of huge plays to get the third and fourth goals (by Nick Sorkin and Kevin Goumas in the third period). We didn’t break in the third period but in the second period, Casey kept us in there. We turned the puck over and they came after us. We were fortunate to win.”

In retrospect, the Wildcats (14-15-3, 11-12-2) are fortunate to have DeSmith in net given the fact he stepped on the ice ranked ninth in the nation in save percentage and 10th in goals-against average.

“All” DeSmith, a freshman from Rochester, did against the Minutemen was make a career-high 47 saves.

In the process, UNH clinched a spot in the Hockey East Tournament and vaulted into sixth place because Providence College was blanked, 3-0, by Boston College.

Trevor van Riemsdyk scored the first two goals for UNH but if it wasn’t for DeSmith’s 24-save performance in the second, the Wildcats might not have gone into intermission leading 2-1.

“He stands right in there,” Umile said of DeSmith. “He has good position. He covers a lot of the net and has an awful lot of confidence.

“I really think he anticipates the next play and puts himself in a great spot. He knows where it’s going across and he’s there. He’s got good push and he’ll challenge and come out to the top of the crease. And he’s very athletic on top of it.

“We knew he was going to be a good goaltender,” Umile added. “That’s why we recruited him. He’s just getting better with confidence and playing at this level.”

Just like a baseball player who’s on a hitting streak when the ball seems like it resembles a beach ball, DeSmith is seeing the puck as well as player can at his position.

“I saw it well the whole game,” DeSmith said. “They came hard from the drop of the puck and, thankfully, I saw it well. They got a lot of chances from the slot and I got a few of them.

“A few got past me but all in all I saw the puck well the whole game.”

Van Riemsdyk gave UNH a 1-0 lead at 6:30 of the first when he gunned home a slap shot from the right point.

The freshman defenseman made it 2-0 at 4:44 of the second with another slap shot, this time from just inside the blue line.

UMass, 11-15-5, 7-13-4, finally beat DeSmith, on a power play, at 11:14, when Conor Sheary scored on a wrist shot from the slot.

Joel Hanely tied it at 4:47 of the third on a snap shot from the left circle. But seemingly in an eyeblink UNH scored twice — Sorkin finishing off a 2-on-1 with Goumas at 7:15 and Goumas following suit 17 seconds later on a fast-break pass from Connor Hardowa.

The Minutemen sliced their deficit to 4-3 on Danny Hobbs’ backhander at 12:25. But DeSmith slammed the door to ensure the victory.

“As a goaltender you always have to adjust to shots and anticipate plays,” DeSmith said. “Every game is an adjustment. Every game I see different looks and different things players do. I always have to adjust to give myself the best chance to make saves.”

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