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Coordinated Reflexes
Three seniors find they can anticipate each other
By Kurt Mullen '94
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UNH men's hockey captain Mike Sislo '11 was the kid on the playground who did everything he could to win. Whatever the sport, even if other kids weren't taking it as seriously, Sislo knew how he wanted to play.

"They'd say I was too competitive, or mean, or whatever," says Sislo of his childhood in Superior, Wis. "But I always enjoyed the competition. I always wanted to win. I probably lost a few friends because of it."

His intensity might have been too much for some of the kids on the playground, but in his senior year of college Sislo is definitely playing well with others. In Division I hockey, where competitiveness is a personality requirement, he's in his element. Sislo is a leader on a team that has won most of its games (13-2-2 in the Hockey East conference as of late January) and which sits on top of the conference standings, tied with defending national champion Boston College.

It helps that line mates Paul Thompson '11 and Phil DeSimone '11 are two of his closest friends and that each of the three complements the others, making them stronger as a unit. Thompson is a big, physical player and one of the top scorers in the country this year. Between Sislo and Thompson is center and playmaker DeSimone, a talented puck handler. Sislo himself leads the Hockey East in assists and is a tenacious worker with a "pro shot," according to head coach Dick Umile '72.

This is the first year that these three have played on the same line together. Last year, Thompson and DeSimone played with national standout Bobby Butler '10, who was a candidate for the Hobey Baker, awarded to the best men's collegiate hockey player. It should have been difficult to fill the skates of a player like Butler, who is now with the Binghamton Senators. But the transition has been smooth, according to Thompson and DeSimone, and the statistics show it—their line is one of the most productive in the country: between them, they have 99 points, 35 goals and 64 assists so far this season.

Sislo, Thompson and DeSimone can correct one another in practice or even in a game, knowing it won't be taken personally. They're always teasing each other anyway, a constant banter that keeps things loose. It's all about getting better as a unit, and they hope—along with the rest of the team—to be playing deep into the postseason this spring. Besides, four years is a long time for young hockey players to practice together under the same coach, and these three know each other's patterns—they each have a mental map of where the other two should be at all times.

"Sometimes, as the guy who moves the puck," says DeSimone, referring to his role as the line's center, "I might just throw it to Sislo's or Thompson's wing. And 90 percent of the time—they're there."

They're also three of the team's top five for the number of minutes they've spent in the penalty box, a sign of their aggressive playing style. Now in their senior year, Sislo and DeSimone are roommates. They all share the same major, health management and policy, which puts them in a lot of the same classes. And each one wants to play professional hockey after UNH. For now, they are together in Durham on the ice, and they are often together off of it.

"I think we just look forward to going to practice and being able to play with each other every day," says Thompson. "Because it's probably never going to happen again [for us], where you have three guys on the same line who are such great friends, who've known each other as long as we have, and who've played together as long as we have."

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