DURHAM, N.H. - Paul Thompson (Derry, N.H.) and Phil DeSimone (East Amherst, N.Y.) both recorded two points and Matt Di Girolamo (Ambler, Pa.) stopped 31 of 32 shots to lead the 10th-ranked University of New Hampshire men's hockey team to Friday night's 3-1 victory against the University of Vermont in Game 1 of the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinals at the Whittemore Center.
UNH, the second seed by virtue of its 17-6-4 league record, improved to 20-9-6 overall. Seventh-seeded UVM, which compiled a 6-14-7 Hockey East record, is now 8-19-8. Game 2 is Saturday, March 12 (7 p.m.) at the Whittemore Center. Game 3, if necessary, is March 13 (7 p.m.), also at the Whitt.
Di Girolamo backboned UNH to a 1-0 first-period lead by stopping all 14 shots he faced. He went on to record eight saves in the second period and nine in the third, and kept UVM scoreless on five power-play opportunities (eight shots). DeSimone and Thompson both tallied a goal and an assist and Stevie Moses (Leominster, Mass.) netted UNH's other goal.
Vermont goaltender Rob Madore made 17 saves in the second and 10 in the third en route to a 30-save effort.
The Wildcats were outshot 14-4 in the first period but took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. Thompson, the 2011 Hockey East Scoring Champion, netted his team-leading 27th goal - and 50th point - of the season at 4:23. DeSimone carried the puck into the attack zone on the right wing and continued through the circle to the goal line. Before circling behind the net, DeSimone through the puck to the low slot to Thompson, who scored on a low shot. Di Girolamo made a pair of acrobatic saves to keep the Catamounts scoreless in the first period. Midway through the stanza, Matt Marshall corralled a loose puck at the right doorstep and looped behind the net for a wraparound shot, but Di Girolamo sprawled across the crease to stop the puck with his glove.
UVM went on its second power play of the night at 11:10 and nearly scored one minute later when a loose puck found the stick of Jack Downing at the left post, but Di Girolamo quickly shifted to the post to thwart Downing. UVM maintained possession, however, and Drew MacKenzie's screened shot from the slot was enveloped by Di Girolamo.
Both teams netted a second-period goal to advance the score to 2-1 in favor of New Hampshire through 40 minutes. With 12 minutes on the clock, a UNH turnover in the neutral zone led to a 2-on-1 rush by the Catamounts.
Chris McCarthy carried the puck into the right circle and centered a pass to Sebastian Stalberg, whose shot was blocked by defenseman Damon Kipp (Salmon Arm, British Columbia) over the boards. After the ensuing faceoff, another UNH neutral-zone turnover, led to a rush down the slot by Tobias Nilsson-Roos, whose shot from the top of the crease ricocheted off Di Girolamo's right shoulder.
McCarthy slipped past the defense with seven minutes remaining in the second stanza, but Di Girolamo once again proved to be the last line of a defense with another save. Anthony DeCenzo controlled the rebound, however, and from deep on the left wing he sent a pass to the low slot and Stalberg jammed a shot into the cage.
The Wildcats nearly regained the lead on a delayed penalty call against UVM with four minutes to play, but Dalton Speelman (San Jose, Calif.) was denied twice by Madore on a backdoor play at the right doorstep.
UNH went on the power play at 16:11, however, and capitalized on the skater advantage to score a power-play goal and regain the lead, 2-1, at 18:11. From the faceoff dot on the left wing, Mike Sislo (Superior, Wis.) moved the puck low in the circle to Thompson. He saucered a centering pass and DeSimone redirected the puck out of midair high into the right side of the net.
Moses extended the advantage to 3-1 at 9:09 of the third period when, from the low slot, he one-timed a Mike Borisenok (Watervliet, N.Y.) pass from the left corner. Kevin Goumas (Lake Worth, Fla.) was also credited with an assist.
Madore was pulled in favor of an extra with 74 seconds remaining in regulation, and UVM called time out with 53 seconds on the clock. The Catamounts could not sustain pressure, however, as Di Girolamo went untested the rest of the way.