Another game, another shutout
Casey DeSmith "pitched" his fourth shutout of the season Friday night and his teammates blocked 18 shots as the Wildcats blanked the River Hawks, 3-0, in a Hockey East game.
The victory was UNH's third consecutive shutout, the first time a Wildcat team has accomplished that feat since the 1928-29 season.
"The team is playing unbelievable defense right now," DeSmith said. "All the credit goes to them.
"They're not letting much through and when they do, it's a good thing that I'm there to make the save. But they're doing a terrific job in front of me."
As a result of that "terrific job" UNH (7-1-1, 5-1-1) lowered its goals-against average to a microscopic 1.22.
In addition, DeSmith (23 saves) extended his scoreless streak to 178 minutes and 52 seconds (the school record is 181 minutes and 31 seconds set in the 1968-69 season) which lowered his goals-against average to 1.21 and upped his save percentage to .957.
"When you get on a run like this, the pucks start not going in, whereas they might have gone in before," DeSmith said. "It's not really a matter of my focusing but I'm confident.
"There were a couple shots from the hash marks tonight that I just knew weren't going in because I'm seeing the puck so well. It's a good roll to be on."
Ironically, while Trevor van Riemsdyk and Connor Hardowa led UNH's blue-liners, they also contributed on offense.
Van Riemsdyk recorded a goal and an assist while Hardowa assisted on the game's final goal - by Austin Block at 19:41 of the third while UNH was on a power play (the Wildcats have scored a power-play goal in each of their seven victories).
What's also noteworthy was the fact UNH was assessed only one penalty.
"We've really bought in as a team this year," van Riemsdyk said. "Everyone's blocking shots.
"They're a really physical team. Maybe in the past when you play a physical team like that, it gets chippy and turns into a mess. But we took their physicality and let them hit us and took advantage of their over-aggressiveness."
The Wildcats and van Riemsdyk gave DeSmith the only goal he would need at 15:53 of the second period when he beat Doug Carr (28 saves) with a wrist shot from the right circle.
Arguably the goal that clipped the wings of the River Hawks (2-5-1, 1-4-1) came at 10:52 of the third.
Settling a rebound, van Riemsdyk fed Grayson Downing, who carried the puck over half the length of the ice and then beat Carr to the upper-right corner.
"Downing's goal was huge for us," coach Dick Umile said. "Overall, it was a gritty game by us. The guys believe in team defense and are playing good, smart hockey.
"Everybody's contributing so I'm pleased with the way the team's playing right now."