DURHAM, N.H. - Paul Thompson (Derry, N.H.) scored three goals and set up another to lead the fourth-ranked University of New Hampshire men's hockey team to Friday night's 5-2 Hockey East victory against UMass-Lowell at the Whittemore Center.
UNH improved to 11-3-4 overall and 9-1-2 in Hockey East to remain atop the league standings. The 'Cats are now 19-0-7 in its last 26 Hockey East league games at Whittemore Center. Mass-Lowell, which had not played a game since Dec. 11, 2010, lost its 10th consecutive game to fall to 2-15-2, 2-11-0.
It was Thompson's second hat trick of the season third career) and the four points matched his season high. Brett Kostolansky (Denver, Colo.) matched his personal best of two assists and UNH's other goal scorers were Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.) and John Henrion (Holden, Mass.).
Matt DiGirolamo (Ambler, Pa.), who was named Hockey East Goaltender of the Month for December earlier this week, made 29 saves while UML counterpart T.J. Massie stopped 19 shots in his first action of the season.
The Wildcats netted an early 1-0 lead on Thompson's first goal at 5:13 of the first period. Mike Beck (Long Beach, Calif.), at the left point, slid the puck across the slot to Connor Hardowa (Edmonton, Alberta), whose shot from the right point ricocheted off Thompson's stick in front of the net inside the left post.
UNH generated a pair of dangerous scoring chances midway through the frame. Thompson corralled an outlet pass at the offensive blue line to create a breakaway opportunity, but his shot from close range sailed wide of the net. Moments later, Jeff Silengo (Madison, Conn.) wristed a shot from the slot that caromed off the left post; Kostolansky quickly controlled the rebound at the left point and fired a shot wide of the near post.
New Hampshire capitalized on its second power-play opportunity of the night to extend its lead to 2-0 at 16:47. Phil DeSimone (East Amherst, N.Y.) curled from the right half-boards to the top of the near circle and continued across the slot to the left circle. His centering pass to the low slot was redirected into the net by Thompson. Kostolansky was also credited with an assist.
Both teams scored a pair of second-period goals as the 'Cats pushed their advantage to four goals before the River Hawks closed to within 4-2. Kessel gave UNH a 3-0 lead with a power-play goal at 6:29 when his shot from the high slot sailed into the upper-right corner of the net. Thompson initiated the scoring sequence by winning possession on the right half-boards and passing the puck back to Kostolansky at the near point. Kostolansky then moved the puck to the left point, where Kessel then maneuvered to the slot to create a shooting lane.
Henrion made it 4-0 at 14:38 when he skated from the neutral zone to the high slot and sent a low shot past Massie. Silengo and Matt Campanale (Chester Springs, Pa.) set up the tally.
UML responded with a goal 55 seconds later and struck again 2:20 after that to trim the deficit to 4-2. Matt Ferreira, with the assistance of David Vallorani and Maury Edwards, snapped a shot from the top of the right circle into the upper-near corner at 15:33. The River Hawks converted their second power-play chance of the game into a goal at 17:53 when Chad Ruhwedel's waist-high shot from the high slot was redirected by Riley Wetmore into the cage. Colin Wright was also credited with an assist.
The River Hawks went on a power play with 2:24 remaining in the game and pulled Massie to gain a two-skater advantage. UNH's penalty kill unit stymied the visitors, however, and Thompson, off a feed from Mike Sislo (Superior, Wis.), scored into an empty net with two seconds on the clock to complete the hat trick.
New Hampshire returns to action Jan. 8 (7 p.m.) at the University of Massachusetts. The Wildcats then battle intrastate rival Dartmouth College in the Battle for the RiverStone Cup at the Verizon Wireless Arena (Manchester, N.H.) on Jan. 15. UNH's next home game is Jan. 21 (7 p.m.) against Providence College. Tickets to the Battle for the RiverStone Cup and all UNH home game are available online at www.UNHWildcats.com.