Paul Thompson scores game-winner for UNH

By Matt Strong

Senior forward Paul Thompson contributed a game-winning effort for the second consecutive weekend on the road to help the New Hampshire hockey team to a 5-4 victory over Maine Saturday night at the Whittemore Center.

With less than a minute remaining in play, Thompson swiftly skated with the puck into the offensive zone and charged toward the left post, tucking his body as he wrapped around the net letting a shot go. The shot, taken from a negative angle, went off the back of Maine goalie Shawn Sirman’s leg pad and into the goal with only 15.3 seconds remaining in the third period. The game-winner served as sweet revenge for Thompson, who was denied on a breakaway just 45 seconds into the first period.

The great play of the No. 6-ranked Wildcats (17-5-4, 15-2-2 Hockey East) have earned them a spot among the best teams in the country. UNH is now riding a four-game winning streak and has claimed sole possession of first place in the conference. Maine, (11-9-6, HE 8-7-4) while retaining their No. 15 rank, is now winless in five-straight games with approximately a month remaining in regular season play.

Wildcats goalkeeper Matt DiGirolamo withstood 13 first-period shots and 15 more through the next two frames. DiGirolamo’s counterpart Sirman was credited with 22 saves.

Four different Wildcat players had multiple-point games Saturday, including freshman John Henrion who tallied four, tying his career best. Maine’s offense was led by three different Black Bears who all registered multi-point games as well.

Lowe’s Senior Class Award nominee Tanner House added two assists. House is the only Hockey East player nominated for the award which rewards excellence on and off the ice. The winner will be announced April 7 at the Frozen Four in Minneapolis, Minn.
UNH returns to action Friday, Feb. 11 against rising Hockey East title contender Merrimack. Face-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Hat-trick leads Warriors

Senior Joe Cucci carried the weight for Merrimack Friday night en route to a 4-3 overtime victory over Northeastern on the road at Matthews Arena.

Cucci led the No. 12-ranked Warriors (17-5-4, Hockey East 11-5-3) past the Huskies with a four-point effort that saw the senior net a game-winning overtime goal as well as a hat trick. Cucci displayed his hockey smarts and quick instincts with a goal off a carom and multiple well-timed slapshots, one being the overtime game-winner.

In a penalty-plagued matchup, both teams reaped the benefits, scoring two power-play goals apiece. The teams combined for a seemingly unfeasible 108 penalty minutes throughout the game. Northeastern saw plenty of opportunity in the first frame, skating with an extra man for five power plays but converted just one.

Despite making 35 stops, Huskies (8-11-6, 7-8-5 HE) sophomore netminder Chris Rawlings took the loss. Joe Cannata outlasted Rawlings in a tightly-contested goalie war, stopping 23 shots and outlasting a constant offensive advantage from Northeastern throughout the first period.

Senior players carried both teams in terms of scoring. Seniors Tyler McNeely and Steve Silva each added goals of their own for the Huskies.

McNeely, riding a four-game point streak, recorded his fifth multi-point game of the season and 19th of his career. The British Columbia native should be interesting to follow as he is eight points shy of notching his 100th career point in collegiate play.

Catamounts dominate Providence

Vermont had 13 players register points against the Friars Saturday night at Gutterson Fieldhouse. Five different skaters recorded multi-point games and the Catamounts continued their mastery of Providence on the ice, extending their unbeaten streak to 10 and winning streak to six.

Vermont (6-15-5, 4-11-4 HE) scored three goals in both the first and second periods. Goaltender Rob Madore collected 31 saves and extended his great play against the Friars, now holding a goals-against average of 1.28 in seven contests.

Providence (7-13-6, 3-11-5 HE) goalie Alex Beaudry finished his stint in the net with 19 saves before being relieved of his duties. Junior Justin Gates played the final period, recording 12 saves and allowing just one goal.

After a first period Catamount penalty sent defensemen Josh Burrows to the box, left winger Matt Germain found himself wide open off a feed from Kyle MacKinnon for the first and only goal of the game for the Friars.

Drew McKenzie picked up a power-play goal for the second straight night to give Vermont a 3-1 lead heading into the first intermission. Sophomore Anders Franzon added an impressive unassisted wrist shot goal to build a 4-1 lead six minutes into second period play.

After a weekend series that saw Vermont kill 10-of-11 power plays, coach Kevin Sneddon spoke of his pleasure with the team’s decision-making and execution, claiming the power play energized the team as the game progressed. Multiple Friars contributed the decisive victory to selflessness and dedication to the game plan.

The win for the Catamounts catapults them ahead of Providence in the Hockey East standings. Vermont visits No. 15 Maine for a two-game series this weekend.

Matt Strong can be reached [email protected]