Saturday, November 17, 2012

Casey DeSmith's Historic Shutout: UNH Downs Lowell 3-0

LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS - On the strength of 23 saves, both routine and flashy, sophomore Casey DeSmith has become the first UNH goalie in 84 years to post three consecutive shutouts. Edward Hunt, the goalie on the 1928-29 UNH team, shut out Bates College, Amherst College, and UMass-Amherst over the span of five days in late January and early February, 1929. All the games were on the road or, more likely, on the train tracks.

Since the roaring 20's, several outstanding goaltenders, including All-Americans Rod Blackburn, Cap Raeder, Jeff Levy, Ty Conklin, Mike Ayers, Kevin Regan, and Brian Foster, were not able to equal the milestone set by DeSmith tonight. The last UNH goalie to blank the opposition in two consecutive games was Kevin Regan in March, 2007 against Providence College. In his final two seasons at UNH, Mike Ayers tallied a remarkable 12 shutouts. Casey DeSmith now has 5 shutouts in 29 games. He's the youngest UNH goalie to reach that mark.

The UNH (Overall: 7-1-1; Hockey East: 5-1-1) team defense came up big again tonight - blocking shots, poke checking, clearing pucks away from the net, smothering Lowell's forwards in the defensive zone, winning battles along the boards. Sophomore defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (4th goal of season) scored what turned out to be the winning goal with about 4 minutes left in the second period. He faked a move to the right at the top of the faceoff circle to the left of UML goalie Doug Carr, drew the puck inside the UML defender and walked into the slot. His wrister beat Carr to his right side, about midway up into the netting. Sophomore Grayson Downing (2nd goal of season) added another goal midway through the third period on an outstanding individual rush into the UML (Overall: 2-5-1; Hockey East: 1-4-1) zone and a backhand shot. Austin Block (8th goal of season) banged home an insurance goal with just 20 seconds left in the game. But the main story was Casey DeSmith and a tenacious UNH defense.

Between The Lines

The Forward Lines & Defensive Pairings
~ Starting Lineup: Dalton Speelman (LW)- Greg Burke (C)- John Henrion (RW); Trevor van Riemsdyk (LD)- Connor Hardowa (RD).
~ Forward Lines: Goumas-Downing-Block; Thrush-Sorkin-Silengo; Correale-Pavelski-Camper; Defensive Pairings: Kostolansky-Agosta; Knodel-Pesce.
~ These four forward lines were all balanced in that the left winger was a left-shot and the right winger a right-shot.

Game Summary

First Period:
UNH dominated the territorial play in Period 1. They outshot UML 11-5.
Starting with the drop of the puck, UNH's forechecking was effective as the UML defensemen had considerable difficulty breaking the puck out of their own end. Occasionally, UML would advance the puck just over their blue line and a UNH forward would intercept the breakout.
Over the first half of the period, UNH had a couple quality scoring chances. About 4 minutes into the period, Senior Greg Burke dug the puck out from behind the UML net and fed fellow Senior John Henrion in front of goalie Doug Carr for a point blank shot.
At the 6:30 mark, Grayson Downing, skating through the faceoff circle to the right of Carr, fed a rushing Connor Hardowa in the slot for another unimpeded shot on goal.
UML was not able to generate a shot on goal until nearly 10 minutes into the first period.
Sophomore forward Jay Camper generated a couple, quality shots on goal in the first period. With 8 minutes left, Camper stole the puck just inside the UML blueline, streaked in between the faceoff circles, and snapped off a quick wrister. Before being forced to leave the game in the second period (see below), Camper generated 3 shots on goal.
Whenever a UML puck-carrier created a little space, it seemed a UNH player was quickly on him.
On two occasions, a UNH player quickly recovered when a UML puck-carrier gained the advantage. At the 15:00 mark, Dan Correale lost the puck along the boards between the red and blue line. He caught up with the UML player in a few strides and froze him along the half-boards. With about a minute and a half left in the period, a UML forward got around a backchecking Eric Knodel at the top of the circle to the right of Casey DeSmith. Knodel calmly reached around the UML player and poked the puck away.
At some point late in the first period, Alternate Captain Greg Burke injured his shoulder and left the game. I did not see the incident but later on, Burke was in the stands with a sling on. UNH fans will recall that Burke has had several injuries since coming to UNH, including shoulder injuries, which have kept him out of the lineup for extended periods of time.

Second Period:
In the 2nd period, UML attempted to overcome UNH's dominance by throwing body checks all over the ice. They also tried to improve their puck movement by spreading their players out more and attempting longer passes.
Over the first 10 minutes of play, DeSmith was forced to make a few saves on shots coming from around the faceoff circles. One of these saves was his patented, quick glove save.
UNH nearly broke the scoreless tie twice in the first half of the period. 5 minutes into the period, Eric Knodel blasted a slap shot from the point, Kevin Goumas gathered the rebound on his backhand and lifted a shot which just missed a wide open net.
With 10 minutes remaining, Grayson Downing was wide open in the slot in front of Carr but missed the net on his shot.
At the 11:30 mark, sophomore Jay Camper, who has been hampered with recurring concussion symptoms over the last few years, was creamed into the half-boards on a cheap hit from behind. No penalty was called. Camper got up under his own power, banged his stick on the ice out of frustration, and skated to the UNH bench. He was evaluated by the UNH trainer and did not return to the game. Hopefully, this was a precautionary measure and not the beginning of a stint on the injured reserve list.
Shortly after Camper left the game, UNH swarmed around the UML zone and Kevin Goumas hit the post with one of his 4 shots on goal.
With just over 5 minutes remaining in the 2nd period, UNH kept the puck in the UML zone in a prolonged sequence which would lead to its first goal of the night. Trevor van Riemsdyk blasted a shot from the left point that was blocked by UML captain Riley Wetmore. Wetmore went down on the ice and did not get back on his skates for several seconds. This allowed UNH to move the puck smartly and buzz around the UML net. TvR eventually regained control of the puck at the top of the circle to the left of Carr. He made a move as if he was going to skate wide of the defender then suddenly shifted to the inside, leaving the UML flat-footed and out of position. TvR then snapped off a wrister from the faceoff dot and beat Carr on the stick side. UNH 1, UML 0.
With 3 minutes left, defenseman Brett Kostolansky made a long, cross ice pass to Dalton Speelman sending him in alone on Carr. Speelman fired a shot on goal - one of his 4 SOG on the night - and Carr made a gut save.
Shortly after, TvR shot the puck along the ice and hit the post.
UNH outshot UML 14-7 in the second period and went into the dressing room with an overall shot advantage of 25-12.

Third Period:
The stakes were high for both teams entering the third period. UNH knew that one more scoreless period and DeSmith would keep his shutout streak alive. Meanwhile, UML desparately needed to generate some offense.
Early on, UML became more aggressive and effective on the forecheck.
Just over a minute into the period, Casey DeSmith made perhaps his most impressive save of the night. Junior Joseph Pendenza - the second leading scorer for UML - was open in the faceoff circle to the right of DeSmith. He received a pass and shot a one-timer low on the ice. DeSmith was forced to quickly slide from his left to his right, flash his right pad, and smother the puck.
Although UML managed to generate more shots on goal, UNH continued their tight defensive play. In one sequence, Brett Kostolansky effectively froze a UML player along the boards. Later, Justin Agosta stopped a shot, headed for DeSmith, with his stick.
At the 7 minute mark, a UML forward gained a step on Eric Knodel but Brett Pesce converged on the play and poked the puck away.
A couple minutes later, Pesce nearly added a goal when he hit the crossbar.
With 9 minutes left in the game, Sophomore Grayson Downing would add the all important 2nd goal on a highlight reel rush into the UML zone. Downing carried the puck through the neutral zone and entered the UML zone to the left of Carr on a 2-on-1 break. Downing shifted the puck back and forth on his stick, then lifted a backhand wrist shot past Carr. UNH 2, UML 0.
At the 11:40 mark, DeSmith made another sharp save which also displayed his ability to direct the puck into a safe area where a teammate can gather the puck. DeSmith flashed his left pad on a point blank shot from the slot and directed the puck into the open corner.
With 6 minutes left in the game, Downing was called for high sticking. UNH killed off the penalty without allowing a single shot on goal.
With 2 minutes left, UML was penalized for tripping. UNH kept the puck in the UML end for most of the power play. With time running out, Nick Sorkin made a slick spin move in the faceoff circle to the left of Carr and fired a wrister. Austin Block, parked at the top of the crease, cleaned up the rebound beating Carr.
Final Shots on Goal: UNH 33, UML 23.

UNH Stars of the Game

#1 Star - Casey DeSmith
~ When any athlete is in the midst of an individual streak, the pressure is on. I don't know whether DeSmith was aware of how long it had been since a UNH goalie had 3 consecutive shutouts, but he knew he was working on a shutout streak. Under the circumstances, his 23 saves is deserving of the #1 Star.

#2 Star - Trevor van Riemsdyk
~ TvR's game-winning goal late in the second period demonstrated how adept he is maneuvering the puck into prime scoring areas.
~ The sophomore defenseman is now the second leading scorer on UNH and, more importantly, tied for the lead in scoring among Hockey East defensemen.

#3 Star - Grayson Downing
~ Downing's pretty goal in the third period was his second in as many games.
~ For a center who is effective controlling the puck in tight spaces, he is also impressive carrying the puck in open ice.

Points of Interest

~ Hopefully, Greg Burke (shoulder) and Jay Camper (concussion precautions) will return to the lineup quickly. However, the fact that freshmen forwards Collin MacDonald, Dan Correale, and Maxim Gaudreault have already played key minutes early in the season will give Coach Umile options if either Burke or Camper need to be replaced.
~ Following the injuries, Jeff Selingo saw increased minutes playing both center and right wing on different lines.
~ There was an impressive showing of UNH fans, both young and old, at the Tsongas Arena.
~ Next Stop - the Agganis Arena, Sunday at 1 PM.


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