DURHAM, N.H. - Matt DiGirolamo (Ambler, Pa.) recorded a career-high 41 saves and Paul Thompson (Derry, N.H.) tallied a goal and an assist to lift the sixth-ranked University of New Hampshire men's hockey team to Saturday night's 2-1 Hockey East victory against 18th-ranked Merrimack College at the Whittemore Center.
UNH improved to 7-2-4 overall and 5-1-2 in Hockey East by remaining unbeaten (3-0-3) at home this season. The Wildcats also extended their league-game unbeaten streak at the Whittemore Center to 24 games (17-0-7). Merrimack, which had defeated seventh-ranked Boston College on Friday to push its unbeaten streak to five games (3-0-2), is now 5-3-4, 4-3-3.
Following two scoreless periods of play, the Warriors capitalized on a power play to take a 1-0 lead at 4:12 of the third period. Joe Cucci won possession in the left corner and moved the puck to Stephane Da Costa in the lower-left circle. Da Costa quickly threw the puck to the top of the crease and Chris Barton redirected a shot into the net.
That lead was short-lived, however, as UNH rallied to tie the score at 7:15 on a goal by Damon Kipp (Salmon Arm, British Columbia), whose shot from the right circle found the upper-right corner of the cage. Thompson, with the pass from the slot to Kipp, and Mike Beck (Long Beach, Calif.) set up the goal.
New Hampshire took a 2-1 lead at 11:53 when Thompson scored his seventh goal of the season. Mike Sislo (Superior, Wis.) led a rush down the left side of the slot and dropped a pass diagonally back to Thompson, whose shot from the inner-right circle beat Merrimack goalie Joe Cannata (25 saves). Matt Campanale (Chester Springs, Pa.) was also credited with an assist.
The Warriors called time out with 2:23 remaining and pulled Cannata in favor of an extra skater. They kept pressure in the offensive zone but had two shots blocked and two others stopped by DiGirolamo before the 'Cats called a timeout with 1:25 to play. MC fired two shots on goal, including one by Joe Cucci from the slot with one second on the clock.
UNH recorded a 12-9 shot advantage in the scoreless first period. The Wildcats generated a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity with 9 minutes remaining in the opening stanza when Phil DeSimone (East Amherst, N.Y.) collected an outlet pass at the center ice faceoff dot and skated down the slot. As he approached the top of the crease, DeSimone pulled the puck to his forehand but his attempt to stuff the puck inside the left post was denied by Cannata's right leg pad.
The 'Cats went on a power play late in the opening stanza and Brett Kostolansky (Denver, Colo.) fired a shot from the right circle that ricocheted off the near post.
Merrimack's best scoring opportunity in the first period came with 90 seconds on the clock, when Barton was denied in the low slot by DiGirolamo and then Brendan Ellis followed with a shot that caromed off the left post.
Four minutes into the second period, the Warriors' Da Costa maneuvered around the defense in the left circle to advance to the front doorstep, where he lifted a shot off the crossbar.
Three minutes later, with both teams down a skater due to minor penalties, DeSimone skated behind the defense and rifled a shot from the inner-right circle that was turned aside by Cannata.
MC had a couple of dangerous chances in the closing minutes on redirections in front of the net, but DiGirolamo denied both Barton and Ryan Flanigan to keep the Warriors scoreless.
New Hampshire returns to action Dec. 2 (7 p.m.) at UMass-Lowell. The Wildcats' next home game is Dec. 5 against Vermont. Tickets for the game, which begins at 4 p.m., are on sale at the Whittemore Center Box Office, by calling 1-800-745-3000 or going online to www.unhwildcats.com.