BOSTON — New Hampshire defeated Northeastern, 3-1, at Matthews Arena on Friday night. John Henrion’s goal at 1 minute, 46 seconds of the third period gave UNH a two-goal lead that they held onto. Second-period goals from Grayson Downing and Eric Knodel staked the Wildcats to a 2-0 lead before Vinny Saponari cut it to 2-1.
UNH winger Kevin Goumas added a pair of assists for the Wildcats. Sophomore goaltender Casey DeSmith made 47 saves in the win for the Wildcats.
What I Saw
- Both goaltenders overcame troubling defensive issues to keep their teams even early in the game. The Huskies struggled to curtail UNH possessions, as the Wildcats cycled and found chances at the goalmouth. When UNH did turn the puck over, Northeastern created some quality scoring chances in transition. Both Casey DeSmith and Chris Rawlings made a flurry of high-quality saves as teams traded some chances early. The second half of the season has been a struggle for both goaltenders. Friday night belonged to DeSmith and Rawlings, though.
- Neither team was particularly effective in its own zone. The goaltenders bailed them out repeatedly. Possessions dragged on as defenders lost races to rebounds at both ends. UNH has been especially strong defensively until recently. Seeing these repeated problems in the second half is problematic for UNH coach Dick Umile. On the other side, Northeastern Jim Madigan has to be encouraged by Rawlings’ steady play. Additionally, the Huskies continued to play well offensively. DeSmith kept them from scoring as often as they have in recent weeks. Still, the pressured the UNH defensemen well and generated strong scoring chances with all four lines.
- The first power play in the game decided the result. Vinny Saponari went off for hooking with 9 seconds left in the second period, sending UNH to the man advantage for 1.51 to start the third and holding a 2-1 lead. John Henrion scored with 7 seconds remaining on the power play, one-timing a beautiful cross-ice pass from Kevin Goumas past Rawlings. Northeastern received three power plays following Henrion’s goal, but failed to convert on any of its chances. A Kevin Roy trip negated the third man advantage just 7 seconds into it.
What I Thought
- Rawlings deserved better. The senior goaltender hasn’t been at his best for most of the season, but he gave his club a chance to win and shift the game after UNH dominated long stretches of the first period. He finished the game with 22 saves. It’s not the usual 40-save effort that elicits such thoughts, but this score could’ve been much worse very early had Rawlings struggled. Heading into the Beanpot, a 3-1 loss isn’t exactly what Madigan wanted. However, knowing his senior goaltender is coming off a strong performance heading into the tournament and the rest of the Hockey East season should be reassuring to an extent. Finding consistency has been the biggest issue for Rawlings, though, and he’ll need to prove it Monday against BU.
- Northeastern’s power play suffered an 0-for-4 on the night. The same problems that made the club one of the nation’s worst on the man advantage last year seemed to creep back into their game on Friday. The Huskies moved the puck well and had some open lanes for shots and passes, but they just couldn’t beat DeSmith. With four third-period power plays in a two-goal game, teams need to find a way to score and level the game. The issues in the man advantage haven’t changed, however, and the Huskies are likely to struggle the rest of the season if they can’t find some consistency up a man.
- Goumas was the best player on the ice for UNH on Friday. The shifty winger has established himself as one of the best playmakers in the country. He displayed the skill frequently on Friday, but two of his passes were especially productive. His cross-ice look to Henrion snuck through the NU penalty-killers, setting up an easy one-timer. His first assist of the game came when he found Eric Knodel open in the high slot for a shot through a screen. Impacting a game with these type of passes has made Goumas an outside contender for national and regional awards, and it’s helped UNH to a top spot in the Pairwise.
What They Said
“(Ludwig Karlsson) came back and went back out. He re-aggravated the injury. I thought he looked good, especially on the power play, but … his status moving forward is questionable.” — Northeastern coach Jim Madigan
Ludwig Karlsson returned on Friday night, playing his first game since Dec. 29 at Harvard. However, the sophomore winger left the game in the second period. According to Madigan, it’s unknown when he will play again. At this point, it’s unlikely that he will play in Monday’s Beanpot game.
What They Didn’t Say
Madigan didn’t point to his team overlooking UNH on Friday with the Beanpot awaiting on Monday. The club struggled to take hold of the game early on, but a lack of focus and energy were not issues for the Huskies. NU played fairly well all things considered. Teams that end games with 48 shots on goal typically get more than one goal for their effort.
What Else You Should Know
- New Hampshire hosts Merrimack Saturday in Durham. The Wildcats finish their season series with the Warriors.
- Northeastern is off for the rest of the weekend in preparation for the 61st Beanpot tournament, which begins Monday afternoon. The Huskies play Boston University at 4:30 p.m. to kick off the annual event.
- UNH forward Jeff Silengo missed Friday’s game with an undisclosed injury.
- Northeastern defenseman Dustin Darou missed his seventh consecutive game for the Huskies. Senior defenseman Drew Ellement missed the game as well with a high-ankle sprain.
- The two points keep UNH in second place, two points back of first-place Boston College.
- The loss keeps Northeastern one point back of Vermont for the eighth and final spot in the Hockey East tournament.