BOSTON — After a last-minute 4-3 victory on their home ice Friday night, the University of New Hampshire Wildcats played a physical, high-speed game against Northeastern at Matthews Arena that ended up being a battle of goaltending in a 0-0 draw.
The first 20 minutes brought a quick pace and physical play, with four penalties for hitting after the whistle. Solid goaltending from Brian Mountain and a physical defense from the Wildcats kept the game scoreless into the third period and eventually into overtime, as the two teams finished in a scoreless draw and each took one valuable Hockey East point.
What I saw
— Brian Mountain kept Northeastern in it through the first 20 minutes of play. He made 17 saves while the Northeastern offense notched just nine shots on goal, comparatively. His biggest test came in the first period’s final minutes as Goumas took a shot on a shorthanded breakaway, but Mountain forced him to the outside of the net, denying him the opportunity. The breakaway was the best chance for either team early on.
— New Hampshire’s offense created offensive opportunity again and again, despite the Huskies’ attempt to keep the game in control with a furious pace, the Wildcats continued to dominate with scoring chances. Grayson Downing, Kevin Goumas, and Greg Burke all had chances early on.
What I thought
— Northeastern hockey generally lives and dies by its goaltending. With an offensive mix of veterans and rookies full of potential and a defense that’s at times mediocre, it’s goaltending that will make or break the Huskies. Scoring goals won’t be their problem, but some young defensemen and no apparent No. 1 goaltender might be.
Of the six starting Husky defensemen, rookies make up fifty percent with Dustin Darou, Dax Lauwers and Colton Saucerman all making an appearance. While the defense does have its moments, like a stellar move by Drew Ellement in the middle of the second period to delfect a UNH scoring chance and convert it into an offensive opportunity for his own team, Northeastern’s potential really lies in its offense, and because of this it relies heavily on goaltending. One standout performance from Mountain doesn’t change everything, but if he can prove he’s a reliable option, it may relieve pressure put on the team by questionable goaltending situation caused by what head coach Jim Madigan apparently perceives to be an already shaky Chris Rawlings.
— On the other hand, Casey DeSmith faced much less of a challenge because of his consistent defense. The pairing of van Riemsdyk and Hardowa kept the Norheastern offense at bay and relieved pressure on DeSmith. Hardowa brought an especially physical presence tonight, with defesemen on both ends overly protective of their goaltenders in such a physical matchup.
In the third period, both defensive units picked up their play, blocking shots in an attempt to keep their respective team in the game.
What they said
“That was a heck of a college hockey game, to be quite honest with you. I told my team it’s as well as we’ve played 60 minutes down here, and that’s after a lot of years. I like the way they competed. I like the way my team played, all the lines. Both goaltenders, I thought, played solid and made some key saves when they had to.”
— UNH head coach Dick Umile
“Both goalies, I thought, were magnificent. They had a few more shots, but I liked our quality of shots. For our team, we’ve got to get better in certain areas, but I like the way we competed and battled. It’s tough to get points in this league, and you’re never happy with a tie. But we’ll take the point and work on the things that we need to get better at.”
— Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan
What else you need to know
— Brian Mountain got his first start since Jan. 10, 2010. He played Friday in Durham after Rawlings was pulled in the second period and had a .947 save percentage in his 32:42 minutes played. Tonight also marked Mountain’s first shutout, making 44 saves. DeSmith came away with 34.
— Northeastern’s next matchup comes against Merrimack in a home-and-home pair of games next weekend. Their last meeting at Matthews opened Hockey East play and resulted in the Huskies’ first win of the season. UNH will face a weekend on the road, first Friday at Massachusetts followed by a Sunday matchup at Maine.