UNH Thrives on Chemistry

DURHAM, N.H.– If there were any doubts in Hockey East that UNH forward Paul Thompson deserved Player of the Month honors, they are long gone now after Thompson netted goals eight, nine and ten in the Wildcats 5-1 uprooting of UVM Sunday night.

In addition, it was the whole first line that dominated the entire night for the Wildcats. All five of the goals scored came from a combination of the same five members of the team. Sophomore Brett Kostolansky found the back of the net for the fourth time this season and of his career and also had assists on two other goals. Junior Blake Kessel followed Kostolansky’s lead and added another for the Wildcats for his third of the year and Thompson, Mike Sislo and Phil DeSimone dominated the rest of the score sheet splitting a combined 11 points among the three of them.

“It’s just five good players,” UVM coach Kevin Sneddon said. “Five good players who have good chemistry make a power play work, and it’s not always a set play that you’re looking for, it’s five guys reading off each other and I think they also do that very well five-on-five. They cycle the puck very well, they know where each other is on the ice and they feed off that very well.”

The top line has produced 49 points in the past eight games they have played, including 14 goals and 35 assists. Needless to say, those three players also are the top three point leaders on the team, Thompson leading with 23 (10g, 13a). Mike Sislo sits just behind him with 22 points (8g, 14a) and DeSimone has 20 (4g, 16a).

Though all three of them have been on fire, the one who has received the least amount of recognition has been DeSimone. The headlines read of game winning goals, and hat tricks, but rarely do they mention how those goals are set up. For DeSimone, his season has been defined by game winning passes instead of goals, and while some skilled players might be discouraged by the lack of appreciation, DeSimone’s embraced it–especially considering the players he has to the right and left of him.

“I mean I have always been a playmaker, that’s kind of my M.O.,” DeSimone said. “I see the ice well and always look to find Paul [Thompson] or Mike [Sislo] before I shoot– its just the way I’ve always played. I don’t mind not getting the “glory” as long as we’re winning. The whole team will get recognition and that’s what’s important.”

DeSimone had two assists tonight, including one on Thompson’s second goal. DeSimone skated into the zone, around the net, and after making a thread-the-needle pass out front to Thompson, got slammed into the boards, seconds before Thompson put it in the net and the crowd went wild.

“You need guys who score and you need guys who set those players up,” DeSimone said. “And I suppose I’m one of those players that sets the goal scorer up.”

Luckily for the Wildcats, the guy who sets up the goals, and the goal scorers have a relationship both on and off the ice that helps make them so effective, regardless of who is scoring. This top line is all seniors and have been on the ice together for four years, and playing with each other for upwards of three, so the comfort level is there.

“It’s kind of been like that all year when someone has had the hot hand at a certain time,” Sislo said about his line and DeSimone’s contributions. “But [DeSimone’s] in there making plays as much as anyone out there and sometimes it’s just bounces and who’s the last couple to touch it. But we have been playing well as a line and it’s been fun. A lot of good chemistry going on.”

Sislo played with DeSimone his sophomore year when the chemistry started with the three sophomores–Sislo, DeSimone and James van Riemsdyk. The line was incredible for being only sophomores, and it has only escalated since then. Now, after DeSimone had time with Thompson last year on the top line as well, and Thompson took the confidence from last year and created some new tenacity for his senior year, everything just “fits” for the dynamic trio.

“One, they are skilled, two, they have great chemistry,” UNH head coach Dick Umile said. “They are the best of friends, they enjoy playing with each other. My problem with them sometimes is getting them off the ice. They are a very talented group and it’s no question they are a big part of our team.”

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