March 16, 2011

Thompson feted as Hockey East Player of the Year; Four Wildcats Honored at Year-End Banquet

Paul Thompson
Hockey East Player of the Year
Hockey East All-Star First Team

Blake Kessel
Hockey East All-Star First Team

Matt Di Girolamo
Hockey East Honorable Mention
Mike Sislo
Hockey East Honorable Mention

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Senior forward Paul Thompson (Derry, N.H.) of the 10th-ranked University of New Hampshire men's hockey team was selected as the 2011 Hockey East Player of the Year at the annual league banquet at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Thursday night. Thompson and Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.) were named to the Hockey East All-Star First Team. In addition, Mike Sislo (Superior, Wis.) and Matt Di Girolamo (Ambler, Pa.) were honored as Hockey East Honorable Mention selections.

Awards Summary:
Charlie Holt Team Sportsmanship Award:
New Hampshire*
Army ROTC Three Stars Award:
Paul Thompson*
Humboldt Storage and Moving Scoring Champion:
Paul Thompson*
Hockey East First-Team All-Star:
Blake Kessel
Hockey East First-Team All-Star:
Paul Thompson (unanimous)
Hockey East Honorable Mention All-Star:
Matt Di Girolamo
Hockey East Honorable Mention All-Star:
Mike Sislo
Athletic Republic Player of the Year:
Paul Thompson
*= announced on Wednesday

Thompson, who was named a Hobey Baker top 10 finalist earlier tonight, was the Hockey East's scoring champion. He is enjoying not only his best season as a Wildcat, but arguably the greatest season by any Wildcat forward in recent history. Thompson ranks first in the nation in power-play goals with 12, ranks third nationally in goals (28) and fourth in scoring (1.44 ppg). In addition, he is second nationally in game-winning goals (11) and his 52 points are fifth best. Thompson has 17 multi-point efforts, seven multi-goal games and has goals in 20 of 36 games. The senior forward has been even better among Hockey East's elite, ranking first overall in goals (28), points (52), power-play goals (12) and game-winners (seven). In conference play, Thompson finished first in points (42), power-play points (18), power-play goals (nine) and was second in Hockey East play in goals (23) and goals per game (0.85).  Thompson has already taken home his share of hardware this season, highlighted by his Hockey East Player of the Month honors in November and January. Thompson was also a three-time Hockey East Player of the Week this season. He is a semifinalist for the Walter Brown Award, given annually to the best American-born college hockey player in New England. On Wednesday, Thompson collected more hardware from Hockey East as he earned the Hockey East Humboldt Storage and Moving Scoring Championship as well as the Army ROTC Three Stars Award for the 2010-11 season.

Overall, the Wildcats made one-third of the Hockey East First Team. Joining Thompson on the league's First Team is junior defenseman Blake Kessel.

Kessel, a 2011 Walter Brown Award semifinalist, helped anchor a stingy UNH defense that ranked second in Hockey East allowing just 2.19 goals per game on 59 goals in 27 games. A 2010 All-America selection and a first team Hockey East All-Star, Kessel ranks 17th nationally in defensemen scoring with 0.72 ppg. He leads all UNH blueliners and is fourth overall in both points (26) and assists (21). Kessel played in all 34 regular-season games and both Hockey East quarterfinal games and recorded a point in 20 of 36 games with five multiple-point efforts, including a three-assist game versus Maine on Feb. 4.

For their consistent play in a difficult Hockey East conference, Sislo and Di Girolamo were honored as Hockey East Honorable Mention selections.

Sislo, UNH's active career scoring leader with 114 points in 151 games, ranks first in Hockey East in assists with 33 helpers in 36 games. A Hockey East Player of the Week on Dec. 6, he ranks fourth nationally in assists per game (0.92) and 17th in points per game (1.28). Sislo's 46 points are fifth best in Hockey East, while his 17 power-play points rank sixth in the league. Most recently, Sislo broke a 3-3 tie with three minutes remaining in Game 2 of the Hockey East quarterfinals to send UNH into the semifinals. On Dec. 5, Sislo handed out a career-high five points – all on assists – against Vermont.

Di Girolamo has been remarkably consistent in his first season as a starter in Durham. A Hockey East Goaltender of the Month in December, he finished as runner-up to BC's John Muse for the Hockey East Goaltending Champion title. Di Girolamo was named Hockey East Athletic Republic Player of the Week on Nov. 8 and was a three-time Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week. He ranks third nationally in saves (1,057), fifth in minutes (2184:52) and 13th in win percentage (.667). An Inside College Hockey National Player of the Week on Nov. 8, he ranks third in Hockey East in GAA (2.47) and second in save percentage (.922) and had a 21-9-6 record with two shutouts. An ironman in net, Di Girolamo started all 34 regular-season games and both Hockey East quarterfinal games and stopped 56 of 60 shots in the Hockey East quarterfinal sweep of Vermont. He was unbeaten (3-0-0) in the month of December while carrying a stingy 1.35 GAA and .950 save percentage. Di Girolamo had a season-best 41 saves in a 2-1 win against Merrimack (Nov. 27) and tallied 40 saves in a 2-2 tie at Vermont (Feb. 19).

These honorees and the rest of the Wildcats will play fourth-seeded Merrimack College in the Hockey East semifinals Friday, March 18 (8 p.m.) at TD Garden in Boston. The game will be broadcast live on NESN with radio coverage on the Wildcat Sports Radio Network.

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