DURHAM, N.H. — New Hampshire coach Dick Umile claims his biggest problem with his top line is “getting them off the ice.”
Sunday afternoon, though, it was Umile who didn’t want to take them off the ice.
UNH’s top line scored each of the team’s five goals as the No. 5 Wildcats cruised past Vermont, 5-1, in front of 5,989 at the Whittemore Center.
November Hockey East player of the month Paul Thompson netted his second career hat trick and captain Mike Sislo assisted on all five UNH goals, as the Wildcats overcame a sluggish first period to net three power-play goals.
“That was a great win for us,” Umile said. “We stayed with it. They played really aggressive in the third period. We just did what we had to do and made the most of our power play.”
And make the most of it they did.
Vermont spent nine minutes in the sin bin during the third period and the Wildcats capitalized.
Thompson sent hats onto the ice, netting the prettiest goal of the night, showing off his blend of size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and speed.
He gathered the puck along the wall, skated around a Vermont defender and beat goalie Rob Madore (20 saves) top shelf, glove side.
“That was a big-time goal,” Umile said. “That’s just the way he’s playing right now.”
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon shared similar thoughts.
“Paul Thompson made a great move strong to the net and beat Robby top shelf,” he said. “They had some goals that we should’ve stopped. That one was a good one, though.”
Thompson scored his second of the night two minutes earlier on a play set up by linemates Sislo and Phil DeSimone.
DeSimone gained the zone and carried the puck behind the net before sending a pass to Sislo, to Madore’s right. Sislo quickly sent a pass to Thompson, who was able to tap in the goal for a three-goal UNH lead.
Both of those goals came on the same power play after the Catamounts’ Lance Herrington was sent off with a game misconduct for a hit from behind, giving the Wildcats a five-minute man advantage.
“I thought that really took the wind out of our sails,” Sneddon said. “You can’t give one of the best power-play lines in the country that much time.”
New Hampshire scored the game’s first goal early in the second period on, of all things, a power play.
Brett Kostolansky, far and away New Hampshire’s smallest defenseman, netted his fourth goal in five games after going goalless in his first 38.
He took a pass from Thompson and fired a wrist shot past Madore.
“I’m thrilled for him,” Umile said. “He doesn’t have the hardest shot, but he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached.”
Tobias Nilsson-Roos answered the Wildcats 11 minutes later when he corralled his own rebound in front of the net and snuck a backhand past goalie Matt DiGirolamo (24 saves).
Thompson answered a minute later, deflecting a DeSimone shot in and, one minute later, defenseman Blake Kessel lit the lamp to give UNH a 3-1 lead at the end of the second.
“Their system isn’t anything too fancy,” Sneddon said. “It’s just five good players who have good chemistry.”
Umile won’t disagree with that. He said it’s one of the reasons they’re good.
“One, they’re skilled,” Umile said. “Two they’ve got great chemistry. My problem with them is getting them off the ice.”
UNH (9-2-4, 7-1-2) moves to a big game with rival Maine next Friday, while Vermont (1-6-4, 1-5-3) will take on No. 3 Yale on the road Wednesday.