DURHAM, N.H. - Tyler Kelleher (Longmeadow, Mass.) scored a third-period goal and Casey DeSmith (Rochester, N.H.) stopped all 27 shots he faced to lead the University of New Hampshire men's hockey team to Friday night's 1-0 victory against 14th-ranked Northeastern University. UNH takes a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series.
UNH, the tournament No. 4 seed by virtue of a 11-8-0 league record, improves to 20-16-1 overall following its third win of the season against the Huskies, whom the Wildcats swept in the two-game regular-season series. NU, the tourney's fifth seed with an 10-8-2 Hockey East record, is now 18-13-4.
DeSmith finished with eight saves in both the first and third periods as well as 11 in the second stanza. NU goalie Clay Witt finished with 34 saves, including 14 in the first and 13 in the second. It was his third shutout effort of the season and second of the season against Northeastern.
Following two scoreless periods, NU carried 80 seconds of power play into the final frame but DeSmith turned aside the Huskies' only shot on goal by Mike Szmatula.
The Wildcats scored what proved to be the only goal of the game at 4:49 when the initial shot from the right circle by Dylan Maller (Parkland, Fla.) was knocked down in the slot, but Grayson Downing (Abbottsford, British Columbia) tipped the puck across the crease to Kelleher, who jammed the puck into the open left side of the net.
Less than one minute later, UNH nearly extended the advantage to two goals when Kevin Goumas (Long Beach, N.Y.) won a face-off in the left circle back to Nick Sorkin (Rockville, Md.), who blasted a shot that caromed off the right post.
NU called time out with 1:30 remaining in regulation and pulled Witt in favor of an extra skater. The 'Cats cleared the puck to the neutral zone twice before the Huskies carried the puck back into the offensive zone with 42 seconds to play. Eric Knodel (West Chester, Pa.), who tallied five of UNH's 12 blocked shots, flipped the puck into the neutral zone with 17 seconds on the clock. The visitors had one last rush, but Szmatula's shot from the right circle sailed wide of the near post with seven seconds remaining and the puck was then cleared out of the zone to secure the win.
UNH recorded a 14-8 shot advantage in the scoreless first period. In the ninth minute, Matt Willows (Congers, N.Y.) blasted a shot from the top of the left circle that caromed off the far post. Just under two minutes later, Harry Quast (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) intentionally fired the puck off the end boards from the left point. Maxim Gaudreault (Annapolis, Md.) quickly settled it at the left doorstep and wristed a shot that Witt enveloped with his torso.
With nine minutes remaining in the opening stanza, Ryan Belonger led an NU rush down the left wing and, from the half-boards, centered a pass that Mike Szmatula one-timed into DeSmith.
With 4:45 on the clock, Jay Camper (Rocky River, Ohio) led a UNH charge along the right dashers and snapped a pass to Casey Thrush (Easton, Md.) trailing down the slot, and that blast sailed wide of the cage.
NU went on the game's first power play at 17:40, and moments later Braden Pimm's redirection in the low slot was knocked aside by DeSmith. John Stevens controlled the rebound at the right doorstep and sent a shot wide of the near post.
UNH carried 55 seconds of a power play into the second stanza and Goumas was denied twice at the right doorstep. In the sixth minute, a Wildcats' flurry of three shots ended with a bid by Dalton Speelman (San Jose, Calif.) from the slot that ricocheted off Witt's shoulder and hit the crossbar. With 5:30 remaining in the middle frame, an assertive forecheck by Gaudreault and Dan Correale (Prince George, British Columbia) led to Correale gaining possession deep on the right wing. He slipped a pass to the low slot, where an isolated Collin Bourque (Goffstown, N.H.) settled the puck, hesitated and then was stoned by Witt.
Friday night's 1-0 win marked UNH's shutout in Hockey East tournament play since defeating Providence College by scores of 4-0 and 6-0 in the 2007 quarters. UNH also shut out the Huskies the last time these teams met in Hockey East tourney play -- 4-0 in the '05 quarters.
The two teams will return to the ice for game two of the three-game series on Saturday, March 15 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the Whittemore Center Arena Box Office or by calling 603-862-4000.