New Hampshire Stymies Potent Northeastern Offense In Hockey East Matchup

UNH goaltender Casey DeSmith picked up his seventh career shutout on Friday night. - Walter Rossini

For the first time all season, Northeastern was shut out, and UNH picked up a big two points on the road.

Boston -- Northeastern's power play has been a strength of the team all season. Heading into Friday night's Hockey East matchup with the University of New Hampshire, the Huskies special teams unit was converting at a 23 percent click.

But the visiting Wildcats found the answer to Northeastern's power play, and to what has been a potent Husky attack all season.

New Hampshire went into Matthews Arena, and became the first team to shut out Northeastern thus far, earning a big 3-0 Hockey East road victory.

"I thought UNH just wanted it a lot more than us," said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan. "They had a better effort, they worked harder, they were better in all three zones.

"I didn't like the way we competed. We were too soft on pucks."

New Hampshire put pressure on the Huskies from the opening face off. The Wildcats were strong in transition, pushing the pace off every Northeastern turnover. After negating a 2-on-1 in the opening minutes with an offsides, UNH score on its very next odd-man rush to take the lead.

"The transition game has been great," said UNH head coach Dick Umile. "The guys have worked at it, they move the puck well, and that starts from our team defense.

"Our defense can move the puck quickly."

On the goal, Kevin Goumas found Nick Sorkin, who after fanning on his first attempt, was able to stuff the puck past Clay Witt for a 1-0 Wildcat advantage. The goal was Sorkin's sixth of the season.

"You stick with it, and hard work pays off," Sorkin said. "I'm just glad I have the opportunity to play where I'm at, and I'm glad it's going well."

Northeastern would continue to turn the puck over all night, and struggle to get back defensively. But strong play from Witt, and missed opportunities from UNH kept the score at 1-0 until late in the second period.

"Other than our goaltender, we didn't get the effort we needed to win here tonight, and the result showed," Madigan said. "He gave us a chance to win, but we need to play better in front of him."

But with Northeastern on the power play - an area of the game the Huskies have excelled at all year - it was UNH that found the back of the net. An aggressive Wildcat penalty kill led to a 2-on-1, and with all day to shoot, Jeff Silengo buried a puck above the glove of Witt and just under the crossbar to extend UNH's lead to two goals.

"It was a quick transition," Silengo said. "We've been working all week on trying to do quick transitioning.

"[Dan Correale] made a great pass to me, and I was all alone, and I was able to get the shot up high."

The Wildcats penalty kill denied time and space to Northeastern puck carriers, and the Huskies skill players were unable to create any quality scoring chances.

"We didn't do a good job entering into the zone on the power play," Madigan said. "They watched some tape. They've seen BC has come at us twice with some pressure up top.

"There needs to be a sense of urgency when pucks turn over, and we didn't have it. "

Northeastern's top scorers were invisible for the most part on the night. Mike Szmatula and Kevin Roy combined for three shots. It was only the second game all season Szmatula has gone without a point, as well as Roy, and the first both players failed to find the scoresheet in the same game.

"We have not had issues all year long with our top forwards getting pucks to the net," Madigan said. "Tonight, we did."

The Wildcats certainly made life difficult for Roy, sending bodies at him consistently, and denying him the open lanes to the net he's been able to take advantage of all season.

"There's five guys defending, and they know who he is when he's on the ice and he has the puck," Madigan said. "We've got to do a better job getting over there and supporting him.

"You can see a little of the frustration level, and they were coming underneath the puck trying to get the puck to Kevin.

The Huskies won't have to wait long though to get a crack at the Wildcats. The two teams meet again Saturday night in another Hockey East tilt in Durham.

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