Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DeSmith & van Riemsdyk Make Hockey East All-Rookie Team

The Hockey East Association announced today that goalie Casey DeSmith and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk were named to the 2012 Pro Ambitions All-Rookie Team. The UNH Men's Hockey Blog would like to extend its congratulations to Casey and the DeSmith family of Rochester, NH as well as Trevor and the van Riemsdyk family of Middletown, NJ.

Casey DeSmith

Prior to the Hockey East Quarterfinal series, fans outside of the UNH community may not have known much about freshman Casey DeSmith. Following DeSmith's outstanding performance on three consecutive nights against Boston University, Hockey East fans know a great deal about the UNH goalie. In Games 1 thru 3, DeSmith was awarded the #2 Star, #1 Star, and #3 Star, respectively.

In a preview of the Hockey East Playoffs, I wrote the following about Casey's emergence as the backbone of the 2011-12 UNH Wildcats:

"When Casey DeSmith committed to UNH in late October, 2010, he was the starting goalie for the Indiana Ice and among the leading netminders in the United States Hockey League. His goals against average was 1.86 per game and he had a save percentage of .943. In November, 2010, DeSmith (a native of Rochester, NH) was named to Team USA for the World Junior A Challenge. DeSmith did not play in the first four games of the tournament but in the Gold Medal game, he got his opportunity to perform under pressure. Early in the second period with Team USA trailing Team Canada 4-1, the starting goalie was pulled and DeSmith entered the game cold. Team USA went on to score 6 goals while DeSmith posted a shutout for the remainder of the game.

In the USHL playoffs last spring, DeSmith lead Indiana to a 2-game sweep in the opening round, posting a shutout in the opening game. In the quarterfinals, facing a do-or-die game against the Green Bay Gamblers, DeSmith made 39 saves in what was described as a "super-human effort" on the Indiana Ice website. The Ice lost in overtime 2-1 to Green Bay who eventually lost to Dubuque in the USHL Finals.

So, Casey DeSmith enrolled at UNH with a reputation for rising to the occasion in high-pressure games. Although UNH lost to BU 2-1 on Dec. 8th, Casey DeSmith played solidly in his first NCAA start making 32 saves.

Before DeSmith took over as the starting goalie, UNH's record in Hockey East was 4 wins, 6 losses and 1 tie. With DeSmith in goal, the record improved to 7 wins, 7 losses and 1 tie. More importantly, DeSmith was giving UNH an opportunity to win every game. 7 of the 8 loses were by a single goal and 4 of those were overtime loses.

Casey DeSmith has joined the ranks of the top goalies in Hockey East. His save percentage of .928 places him in a tie for the #1 rank in Hockey East. His goals against average of 2.29 is the 4th best in the league. He is essentially neck-and-neck with BU's senior goalie Kieran Millan (.927 Save%; 2.39 GAA). Nationwide, among all NCAA Division I teams, Casey DeSmith is ranked #7 in save percentage.

DeSmith has played some of his best games for UNH in must-win situations - like he did last year as a junior player in the USHL. When UNH fell to 9th place in Hockey East, they faced a home-and-home series against Providence in early February. UNH won the first game in Durham 3-1 and DeSmith made a total of 37 saves, including 14 saves in the final period. The following night in Providence, UNH held on to win 3-2 in overtime. Once again, DeSmith came up big when the game was on the line. In the third period, DeSmith made 14 saves and added 2 more in overtime.

Casey DeSmith's most impressive performance came two weeks ago at UMass-Amherst. Facing three away games to end the season, UNH needed to win one to clinch a spot in the Hockey East Playoffs. In the UMass game on Friday night, DeSmith faced a barrage of 51 shots on goal. UMass was desparate to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. DeSmith turned away 48 shots, including 25 in the second period as UNH won 4-3. DeSmith relied on all his strengths to pull out the victory. DeSmith stands tall in the crease leaving few gaps for shooters. His glove hand is lightning quick and he's adept at anticipating where the opponent's shots are coming from. In the final game of the season at Maine, DeSmith only allowed one goal and that came when a shot from the blueline was redirected by a UNH defenseman into the upper corner of the net. To beat DeSmith, a team needs to score fluke goals or to screen his view of shots. In scrums around the net, he is relentless."

Trevor van Riemsdyk

Trevor van Riemsdyk also played with poise throughout the playoff series with Boston University. In the first two games, TvR generated 3 shots on goal and 2 SOG. In the winner-take-all final game, TvR produced 4 shots on goal and assisted on UNH's third goal. He nearly won the game for UNH on a wrist shot in the double overtime period.

In late January, UNH played an important home-and-home series against Boston College. UNH was on the verge of recovering from too many early season loses and TvR was emerging as a key ingredient to the turn around. What I wrote then sums up his importance to the team:

"In the two games against BC, freshman defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk reasserted himself into UNH's offense. In the Friday game, TvR had two assists. Tonight, he carried the puck into the offensive zone several times and skated in deep to make plays. During one sequence midway through the third period, TvR carried the puck out of the UNH zone, through center ice and into the BC zone, fired a shot, then chased a BC forward all the way back into the UNH zone and poke-checked the puck away as the forward was about to shoot on DeSmith. TvR also made some outstanding defensive plays in the UNH zone. In the first period, the speedy John Gaudreau tried to break free of TvR by skating with the puck from one circle to other. Not only did TvR keep up with him, he stole the puck and Gaudreau grabbed him and was called for a holding penalty."

It's important to acknowledge that all the UNH freshman who suited up this season made key contributions to the team. We would like to congratulate forwards Grayson Downing, Casey Thrush, Matt Willows and Jay Camper as well as defensemen Eric Knodel and Justin Agosta (who played in their first games this season). We look forward to seeing them develop further next season.


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