UNH Standouts in Weekend Sweep of Notre Dame
|Casey DeSmith's 70 SavesAnchor Sweep of Fighting Irish|
Much was at stake and the obstacles were daunting. The UNH Wildcats were battling to keep their chances of earning home-ice in the quarterfinal round of the upcoming Hockey East Tournament, and qualifying for the 2014 NCAA Tournament, alive. 14th-ranked Notre Dame was coming to town for back-to-back games at the Whittemore Center. The hometown team would be without the services of All-American defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (broken left ankle), 2nd-line center Grayson Downing (sprained shoulder), and 3rd-line center Kyle Smith (concussion).
The outcome could not have been better. UNH overcame a slow start on Friday night to defeat Notre Dame 4-2 and convincingly beat them 5-2 on Saturday night. The entire team rose to the occasion.
"All weekend, the guys worked their butts off, blocking every shot, winning every battle in the corner. Every line, every D-pair, everyone who was out there. If your number got called, they were going to work their butts off for the team. If was a great effort for us." Captain Eric KnodelWhen every player steps up to achieve victory, it's awkward to single out individual player performances. Nonetheless, in each game, individual UNH players made outstanding plays at key junctures. These are the performances I believe merit a second look.
Friday, Jan. 31st: UNH 4, Notre Dame 2
Junior Goalie Casey DeSmithDuring the broadcast on Saturday, former BU star and current NESN color commentator Colby Cohen described Casey DeSmith as an averaged-height goalie who plays big in the net. In the first game of the weekend series, with Notre Dame badly outshooting UNH 34-22, DeSmith kept UNH in the hunt with routine and spectacular saves. His glove work, in particular, frustrated the Fighting Irish. Here's a sampling:
Sophomore Defenseman Brett PesceAs a freshman last season, the play of 6'3", 175 lbs. Pesce garnered the attention of NHL scouts and he was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the third round of the NHL Draft last June. He's been described as a "stay-at-home" and "shutdown" defenseman. His ability to stop the offensive efforts of opponents, particularly with his stickwork, is remarkable. However, his offensive upside has been somewhat overshadowed by the play of Hobey Baker Candidate Trevor van Riemsdyk. In TvR's absence, Pesce's abilities to rush the puck up ice, distribute it in the offensive zone, and fire shots on net have become more obvious.
In these highlights, Pesce plays the umbrella position on the UNH power play and scores a PP goal, disrupts the Notre Dame power play, and almost single-handedly stymies ND in the UNH zone: