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DeSmith’s 45 saves backstop UNH to 3-1 win over Boston U.

BOSTON – At the start, the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team followed the game plan perfectly. Score early against Boston University, and force the Terriers to rally against goalie Casey DeSmith and his 200-plus-minute scoreless streak.

The streak came to an end. UNH’s winning ways, however, did not.

It wasn’t easy, but the Wildcats earned their fourth straight win, overcoming seven penalties to defeat No. 11 BU, 3-1, at Agganis Arena yesterday.

The win ups the fifth-seeded Wildcats’ record to 8-1-1 (6-1-1 in Hockey East), which Coach Dick Umile was happy – and relieved – to see.

“We’re pleased with the outcome. I thought our penalty kill was excellent tonight, obviously,” he said. “It needed to be.”

UNH played more than 2 1∕2 periods of penalty-free hockey Friday against UMass-Lowell, but there was a revolving door to the box yesterday. Goals by Kevin Goumas and Maxim Gaudreault (the freshman’s first career score) gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead after the first period, but UNH went on the defensive for much of the remaining two periods due to four BU power plays in the second and two in the third – including a pair of 5-on-3s, one of which had Umile stretching out his arms in disbelief.

Led by DeSmith, the UNH penalty kill, ranked third in the nation going into the game, held firm. BU (6-4-0, 5-3-0) brought the pressure, but the Wildcats hung on, surviving despite being outshot 34-15 over the final two periods.

“We just did a good job on the penalty kill tonight,” Umile said. “Thank God. We got a lot of practice.”

BU stumbled to an 0-for-7 performance on the power play, held in check by DeSmith, who withstood the Terriers’ attack with 45 saves. The sophomore goalie did see his team-record scoreless streak come to an end at 203:32, when Danny O’Regan’s shot off a rebound found the net with 15:20 left in the second, but he was more than happy with the result.

“I just wanted the win,” he said. “It’s easy for a goalie if you’re getting a lot of shots. You’re feeling it, you’re seeing the puck well. You kind of get in that rhythm.”

Senior defenseman and captain Connor Hardowa echoed DeSmith’s perspective.

“Nobody really cares about how many goals we let in, as long as we keep getting more,” he said. “It’s great for Casey, he’s been playing unreal. It’s nice to have that confidence he’s in the (net).”

UNH put the Terriers in a hole early with a pair of first-period scores. The Wildcats struck first with 8:26 to go by benefitting from a BU mistake, as Ryan Santana’s unpressured breakout pass went right to Dalton Speelman, who deflected the puck over to Goumas. The junior wing skated in all alone and fired a wrister past Terriers goalie Matt O’Connor (33 saves), giving the team’s leading points man his second goal of the season.

“Anytime you go on the road and you get that first one, especially against a team like BU, you feel a little relief,” Goumas said. “But it’s just the first period. We’ve got to keep playing our hockey.”

UNH maintained the intensity in the period and cashed in again with 5:50 left. O’Connor was able to stop defenseman Justin Agosta’s shot from up close, but the puck slid over to Gaudreault, whose rebound shot slipped under the goalie’s pads and over the line for a 2-0 lead.

Goumas added a second tally with an empty-netter with 0.1 seconds remaining, icing a significant – but difficult – weekend sweep.

“It’s huge. This was a big weekend for us, especially going into our road trip to Denver,” DeSmith said. “We definitely wanted four points out of this weekend, and we’re really happy with how we’re playing right now.”

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

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