BOSTON — New Hampshire earned its fourth straight win Sunday, beating Boston University 3-1. Before giving up BU’s goal, the Wildcats broke the program record for longest shutout streak. UNH opened the scoring with 8:26 left in the first when Dalton Speelman forced a turnover in the BU zone, allowing Kevin Goumas to grab the puck in the high slot and beat Matt O’Connor glove-side. Maxim Gaudreault added to the lead a few minutes later when he collected a rebound off Justin Agosta’s point shot and put it home for his first collegiate goal.
The Terriers (6-4-0, 5-3-0 Hockey East) cut the lead in half 4:40 into the second when Matt Grzelcyk led a rush down the right wing and put a shot on net that produced a rebound for Danny O’Regan to bury. BU badly outshot UNH (8-1-1, 6-1-1 HE) the rest of the way, but couldn’t manage to get another one past DeSmith. Goumas sealed the victory with an empty-netter.
What I saw
-At 1:32 of the first period, the Wildcats broke the school record for longest shutout streak. The previous record was 181:31, set in 1969. By the time BU got on the board, UNH had extended the record streak to 204:40. Obviously a streak like that is a credit to the entire team’s defense, but it starts with Casey DeSmith, who was in net for the entire streak, save for a couple delayed penalties along the way. It seems like he just never gets caught out of position, and his rebound control has been great this season.
-The Wildcats dominated the first period. They were the aggressors most of the period, and they won most of the puck battles. Their forecheck gave BU fits and consistently forced bad passes and turnovers. One of those turnovers resulted in the Wildcats’ first goal, as Speelman got his stick on Ryan Santana’s breakout pass, sending Goumas the other way. The Wildcats ended up with a staggering 20 shots on goal in the opening frame. They also gave up 12, but a lot of those were from the outside, and not many came from long BU possessions. BU coach Jack Parker said after the game that he didn’t think his team was ready to play.
-Aided by four UNH penalties, the Terriers took control in the second and outshot UNH 17-4 in the period. They cut the lead to 2-1 and had plenty of chances to tie the game, but DeSmith single-handedly kept UNH in the lead. Constantly being on the penalty kill clearly weakened UNH, as the Terriers were able to get long offensive possessions, something UNH had been allowing very few of. Oddly enough, BU actually looked better 5-on-5 than on the power play, as it repeatedly struggled to get set up on the man advantage. The Terriers’ goal did come just 17 seconds after one of the power plays expired, though. They carried the momentum into the start of the third, as they registered 12 of the period’s first 14 shots.
What I thought
-This game could’ve been a much different story if the Terriers could’ve capitalized on the power play. They had seven chances, including two 5-on-3s, but didn’t do a whole lot with them. Their passing was off, they held onto pucks too long, and their entries were sloppy. On more than one occasion, it looked like they were just dumping the puck in for the sake of dumping it in, instead of trying to put it some place where UNH wouldn’t be able to retrieve it. The Wildcats have the best penalty kill in the conference, but BU didn’t do enough to make them work for the kill.
-I really wish we didn’t have to wait until January to watch UNH face Boston College. They are clearly the two best teams in the conference, and neither one has a weakness. They are first and second in Hockey East in pretty much every team statistic right now. BC has won nine straight games. UNH has surrendered just three goals in its last six. Hopefully both teams are still playing close to this level when they do finally meet, because that would be an awful lot of fun. Given what I’ve seen from both teams, I have no reason to expect that either will fall off.
-That said, BU continues to assert itself as the third best team by showing that it can compete with those top two squads. Over the last two weekends, the Terriers have gone toe-to-toe with BC and now UNH, only to come up a little short in both games. When you consider that this is a young team — five of their top seven scorers are freshmen or sophomores — it’s not hard to imagine the Terriers continuing to improve. Right now, they’re not quite on the same level as BC and UNH. But the gap between those two and the Terriers isn’t insurmountable either.
What they said
-UNH coach Dick Umile: “We talked about it before the game, how we’re going out west to play Denver and Colorado College for Thanksgiving out there, and this would be a nice way to go out there. Anytime you can win two games in Hockey East, that’s a huge weekend, especially coming down here. We always have great games with BU.”
-UNH defenseman Connor Hardowa on the shutout streak: “We just keep winning. No one really cares about how many goals we let in as long as we keep getting more than what we let in. Obviously it’s great for Casey. He’s been playing unreal. It’s nice to have that confidence in the net. He’s keeping everything out. He let one slip by him today, but he still played an unbelievable game.”
-BU coach Jack Parker: “I thought UNH was the much better team this afternoon. Even though the shots are in our favor and there was some territorial advantage at times for us, I thought they played great defensively. We played BC a couple weeks ago here, and obviously BC’s the number one team in the nation. I thought we played very well against BC. We didn’t play well against this team. This is the other best team we’ve played in our league. I think UNH and BC are without question the two best teams I’ve seen in our league. We didn’t play as well as we needed to play against this club tonight.”
What else you should know
-Although we have to wait until January for UNH-BC, the Wildcats will partake in a premier showdown next Saturday, when they face the 9-1-0 Denver Pioneers out in Colorado.