Men's Hockey: UNH wins Game 1 of Hockey East Quarterfinal, 1-0

By Justin Loring
On March 14, 2014

Despite missing a number of odd-man opportunities and close bounces, UNH was able to pull out a gritty 1-0 victory over Northeastern in Game 1 of the Hockey East Quarterfinals. Tyler Kelleher netted his fourth goal of the season at the 4:49 mark of the third period while Casey DeSmith notched his third shutout of the season. Despite reuniting on March 1, the top line of Sorkin-Goumas-Willows was held pointless for the first time since Jan. 18, when the team lost to No. 3 Union College 3-1.

Amidst a flurry of opportunity, Kelleher was able to take advantage of a little puck luck in the third period. A few minutes prior to his goal, he appeared to have a breakaway but couldn't corral the puck in the neutral zone on the breakout pass from Dylan Maller. "It's probably the most embarrassing play of my career," Kelleher said with a laugh after the game.

On the ensuing possession, Maller put a shot on net the hit a Northeastern defenseman. Downing got the puck and fed Kelleher, who was waiting to put in the eventual game-winner. "I was sitting there [on the back post] and Grayson Downing made a nice pass, or maybe it was a tip, right to my stick," Kelleher said. "I just put it in."

UNH started the game on fire, getting a host of scoring chances in the first five minutes of the game. Downing, who returned to the lineup against Merrimack on Feb. 28, made his presence felt immediately. Playing on the second line with Kelleher and Dalton Speelman, Downing led a number of odd-man chances that just couldn't find the back of the net.

Northeastern's Ryan Belonger had a one-time look at the end of the first period that went wide of the net, which would have been a huge blow to the Wildcats who had been outplaying Northeastern to that point.

The second period was one of frustration for the Wildcats, who spent almost half the period killing penalties. "We took six penalties, but played well defensively [in the second period]," head coach Dick Umile said. "We did a pretty good job [on the penalty kill], but you're living on the edge getting penalties." 

Clay Witt and DeSmith had one of the best goaltending matches all season, combining to save 62 of 63 shots faced. "That was one of the best games we've played defensively in a really long time," DeSmith said. "We were tested at Merrimack and today we shut a lot of [offensive chances] down."

Witt made 38 saves on the night, his sixth-highest total on the season. "He played very well," Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. "He kept us in the game."

UNH and Northeastern will return to the Whittemore Center tomorrow night for game 2 of the series at 7 pm, and will play a rubber match on Sunday if Northeastern wins Saturday night.

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