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DeSmith, defense give UNH hockey team another shutout

  • University of New Hampshire Dan Correale battles for the puck from  University of Massachusetts Lowell's Christian Folin; Friday November 16, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    University of New Hampshire Dan Correale battles for the puck from University of Massachusetts Lowell's Christian Folin; Friday November 16, 2012.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Zack Kamrass of University of New Hampshire men's hockey makes an attempt to score early in their game at University of Massachusetts Lowell; Friday November 16, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Zack Kamrass of University of New Hampshire men's hockey makes an attempt to score early in their game at University of Massachusetts Lowell; Friday November 16, 2012.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Kevin Goumas of University of New Hampshire men's hockey makes an attempt to score early in their game at University of Massachusetts Lowell; Friday November 16, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Kevin Goumas of University of New Hampshire men's hockey makes an attempt to score early in their game at University of Massachusetts Lowell; Friday November 16, 2012.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Kevin Goumas of University of New Hampshire makes an attempt to control the puck in their game at University of Massachusetts Lowell; Friday November 16, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Kevin Goumas of University of New Hampshire makes an attempt to control the puck in their game at University of Massachusetts Lowell; Friday November 16, 2012.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • University of New Hampshire Dan Correale battles for the puck from  University of Massachusetts Lowell's Christian Folin; Friday November 16, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • Zack Kamrass of University of New Hampshire men's hockey makes an attempt to score early in their game at University of Massachusetts Lowell; Friday November 16, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • Kevin Goumas of University of New Hampshire men's hockey makes an attempt to score early in their game at University of Massachusetts Lowell; Friday November 16, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • Kevin Goumas of University of New Hampshire makes an attempt to control the puck in their game at University of Massachusetts Lowell; Friday November 16, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

LOWELL, Mass. – Whether the puck is going in for the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team or not is a moot point these days.

Hot or cold, the Wildcats offense is bound to have a better day than its opponent.

UMass Lowell’s offense became the latest casualty at the hands of Casey DeSmith and the UNH defense, as the No. 5 Wildcats notched their third straight shutout, and fourth in five games, with a 3-0 victory over the River Hawks at Tsongas Arena last night.

“Obviously, Casey’s done a great job there, playing in goal, but team defense has been pretty solid for us,” UNH Coach Dick Umile said. “I thought the guys did a very good job for us tonight. We kept a lot of the shots outside, we blocked some shots. It’s a tough building to play in.”

The defensive success for the Wildcats (7-1-1, 5-1-1 Hockey East) was impressive. Now it’s historical. The team hasn’t allowed a goal in the past 178:52, the longest such streak since the 1968-69 season.

Even more remarkable: The three straight shutouts are the first in UNH history, since 1928-29.

The defense held firm even as the Wildcats offense reverted to its road woes early. The unit that was coming off back-to-back four-goal games started off against Lowell (2-5-1, 1-4-1) like the one that had scored once at Massachusetts and was blanked at Northeastern. UNH had no trouble getting shots off, but struggled to find the net with several of them and to convert on opportunities near the goal.

It wasn’t until nearly four minutes were left in the second period that the Wildcats finally broke through. UNH brought the puck into the Lowell end and hit River Hawks captain Riley Wetmore in the foot with a shot. Wetmore was hobbled, but UNH’s attack kept him on the ice, and after he tipped a pair of passes, he was beaten when defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk took a pass from Kevin Goumas, made a move and fired a wrist shot past goalie Doug Carr for a 1-0 lead with 4:07 to go.

“I didn’t know if he was just really tired or if something was wrong,” van Riemsdyk said. “I could tell that they were at the end of a shift and they weren’t moving as quick as they were early on, so I knew I had a little bit of time to make a move.”

Van Riemsdyk had a hand in the team’s second goal, which came with 9:08 left in the third. The sophomore took the puck and found Grayson Downing, who skated in with Kevin Goumas trailing. The sophomore center kept it himself and finished it off, lifting a backhander over Carr for a 2-0 lead.

“I use that (move) quite a bit,” said Downing, whose team got its final tally on Austin Block’s power-play goal with 19 seconds left. “You can ask Casey, Casey’s seen it a couple of times too.”

It was the fourth shutout of the year for DeSmith, but the sophomore netminder was quick to point out he was playing behind a disciplined defense that limited shots (UNH outshot the River Hawks, 33-23) and stayed out of the penalty box until 6:14 remained in the game.

“It’s a good thing to have going. I’m not going to complain,” DeSmith said. “The team’s just playing unbelievable defense right now. All the credit goes to them.”

The win came despite a pair of medical setbacks, as senior center Greg Burke and sophomore wing Jay Camper left with injuries in the first and second periods, respectively.

“We played three lines, and the guys played a gritty game,” Umile said. “They played hard, they played smart.”

A challenge remains tomorrow in a road game at No. 11 Boston University, but the Wildcats are confident. Of course, when you’re defense has never been better – at least, not in over 80 years – confidence is easy to come by.

“The guys are believing in team defense, and we’re playing smart,” Umile said. “We’re playing good, smart hockey and everybody’s contributing, so I’m pleased with the way the team’s playing right now.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or at abonifant@cmonitor.com, or via Twitter @dbonifant.)

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