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Thanks to DeSmith, UNH hockey team escapes with win over BU

DURHAM – A desperate stand was hardly the ending the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team envisioned when it celebrated a three-goal lead before even the first intermission last night against Boston University. That was the one the Wildcats got, however, as the scrappy Terriers put shot after shot on goal in the final minutes, trying to complete a rally and rob the hosts of two precious Hockey East points.

UNH goalie Casey DeSmith stopped the first one. Then the next one. Then a flurry at the end, with the junior’s emotional celebration at the final buzzer leading the rest of the team and its 5,349 fans’ jubilation after a 4-3 victory over its rival in the final regular season game at the Whittemore Center.

“Casey DeSmith got the two points, to be quite honest with you,” Coach Dick Umile said. “He made some incredible saves in the third period when we as a team tried to give it away.”

UNH (17-15-1, 9-8-0) took a 4-2 lead into the third, but allowed a 5-on-3 goal with 10:45 to go and then couldn’t stem a Terriers push that lasted into the final minutes. BU (8-17-4, 3-9-3) had a tie game in its sights when Evan Rodrigues found Danny O’Regan alone in the slot, but DeSmith somehow snagged the sophomore’s shot with 3:27 left, causing O’Regan to skate away in disbelief and prompting an ovation from the fans.

“The one there where he made the glove save, I couldn’t believe he made the save,” Umile said. “At first I thought he shot it over the net, but it’s in his glove.”

BU did beat DeSmith once in the final minutes, hitting a post with 1:30 to go, but the rest of the Terriers’ shots were just material for the junior’s highlight reel. With an extra attacker on, BU tried a shot that DeSmith kicked aside with 25 seconds left, and on their final trip down, the Terriers swarmed the slot while getting several whacks at loose pucks sliding around.

None went through, the horn sounded and the normally reserved DeSmith leapt to his feet and hugged forward Matt Willows as his teammates poured on the ice.

DeSmith made 37 saves, and showed his teammates the form they know they can win with going forward.

“Going into the (postseason), the teams that usually win are the teams with the hottest goalie,” said senior defenseman Justin Agosta, who had three assists. “If Casey plays the way he’s capable of, we’ll be in good shape.”

A great night from DeSmith didn’t seem like it would be necessary in the first period. UNH surged to a quick lead when Dan Correale knocked in a rebound of Jeff Silengo’s shot after Silengo’s shorthanded breakaway 2:52 into the game, and took a 2-0 lead 10:13 in on the power play when Kevin Goumas found Eric Knodel at the left point and the senior captain rifled a shot that beat Matt O’Connor (14 saves).

UNH went up 3-0 when Willows scored 17:40 in, but the cracks began to show shortly after. Rodrigues scored a 5-on-3 goal with 7.7 seconds left in the period, and O’Regan trimmed the gap to 3-2 on a breakaway 8:53 into the second period.

Willows made it 4-2 when he sniped a shot past O’Connor on a 2-on-1 11:41 into the second, but discipline woes struck again when BU’s Robbie Baillarge scored his 5-on-3 goal on a one-timer from the right circle.

DeSmith made sure the story still ended well for the Wildcats, but Umile stressed that the game’s getting there showed a lesson needed to be learned.

“Giving up two goals three versus five is not a good formula for trying to win hockey games,” he said. “It’s tough to get two points, no doubt about it, but we almost gave it away.”

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

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