Durham, NH- UNH raced out to a 2-0 first period lead on Vermont, on a shorthanded tally by Grayson Downing at five minutes, 27 seconds and a power-play goal by Eric Knodel at 12:07. Austin Block had his second consecutive two goal game for UNH as he scored a goal in each of the last two periods. UNH overmatched the Catamounts to take home the win 4-0, in a game that didn’t even feel that close.
Casey Desmith earned his second shutout in a row. Desmith made 27 saves on the night, while his counter-part Brody Hoffman made 25 saves on 29 shots. Hoffman had the more difficult night and kept UVM in the game for much of the first two periods. UNH improves to 6-1-1 on the season and 4-1-1 in Hockey East, while Vermont falls to 1-3-2 and 1-3-2.
What I Saw
UNH controlled play for much of the second period and were able to outskill and outwork the Catamounts for much of the game. Despite only having 21 shots in the first two periods, it seemed like it should have been more as UNH continually ran laps around Vermont players in the neutral zone and in the Catamount zone. Vermont had no answer for the speed of their opposition.
UNH played a masterful defensive game and held the Catamounts to few, if any, really good opportunities on the night. Casey Desmith made the saves that he needed to and UNH played well in front of him. This is the strength of UNH and it is really showing up on paper and in the eye-test.
Vermont played a really good, road first period, but UNH was able to escape the first with the 2-0 lead. The special teams haunted them in the first, as the Wildcats would score shorthanded and on the power-play in the first period. Along with giving up the special teams goals, they were unable to score on four power-play opportunities in the first two periods. The specialty teams were the difference in an otherwise good first period for the Catamounts.
What I Thought
I still feel as though Vermont is a lot better today than they were a year ago. Despite having no answer for the UNH speed and skill, they held their own for most of the game. Brody Hoffman has been strong in their net and tonight was no different. On the four goals he gave up, Hoffman was the victim of a lack of puck luck. It seemed as though any time the puck fell in front of him, UNH was on it and it ended up on their sticks, the in the net.
UNH has come a long way in their specialty teams from last year, especially on the penalty-kill. The high pressure, high movement PK has been working to near perfection for them on the year and Saturday night was no different. Active sticks and bodies wrecked havoc on the UVM power-play unit and the Catamounts were never able to establish anything on that aspect of their game.
What They Said
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said,
“We got taught a lesson on how to play hockey tonight. I thought UNH played fantastic and we played in amazement. We had a very poor effort tonight. We lost almost every category we could have lost. I want to make sure I give credit where it is due.”
“Both of the special teams goals early in the game were prime examples of us just standing around. We can’t play hockey this way and give a team like UNH a 2-0 lead in their own barn.”
UNH Coach Dick Umile said,
“I am pleased with the way we played, the shots may have been close but we generated a lot of great opportunities. This is one of our better games defensively all season. Casey didn’t have to make many big saves, most of them were outside.”
UNH goaltender Casey Desmith said,
“My defense has been unbelievable for me. We played really well defensively and I really didn’t have much to do because they played that well. That was the best we back-checked all season. My recent performance is a combination of me seeing the puck well and my defense playing really well in front of me.”
What Else You Should Know
Saturday night’s tilt was the 100th all-time meeting of New Hampshire and Vermont with the Wildcats leading the all time series, 76-19-5.
Casey Desmith has recorded two straight shutouts. He is the first UNH goalie since Kevin Regan who accomplished the same feat on March 8-9, 2007.
UNH returns to action on Friday night 50 miles south in Lowell, Massachusetts to take on the River Hawks of UMass-Lowell. The River Hawks are coming off a loss to Maine on Saturday night.
Vermont will host Boston University on Friday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse, in Burlington. The game will be a huge test for the Catamounts on home ice.