October 7, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Out of the Wild

UNH Goaltender Proved Himself Last Year, Now Wants More

by Cara Spilsbury/CHN Reporter

 (photo: Gil Talbot)

(photo: Gil Talbot)

New Hampshire has a rich history of top goaltenders. Ty Conklin. Mike Ayers. Kevin Regan. And someday, the UNH history books may include an unlikely entry — Matt Di Girolamo.

After appearing in just eight games his first two seasons as a Wildcat, Di Girolamo was given full reign of the net last season when Brian Foster graduated. It started as a position in question, but Di Girolamo proved that he was the answer. Relatively untested, the Philadelphia native started all 39 games during the 2010 - 2011 season.

"Coming into last season, almost nobody besides my coaches and teammates knew what I could do," Di Girolamo remembered. "Everyone else had a feeling that goaltending would be a problem for us that year."

Di Girolamo was not just an adequate replacement for Foster in goal. He posted a 22-11-6 record, recorded a nation's best 1,145 saves in 2,302:51 minutes played and ended the year a save percentage of .923.

At season's end, he was one of the top three in each of Hockey East's goaltending categories.

In the 2011-2012 season, Di Girolamo hopes to build on his reputation from the previous year and cement himself as a leader of the Wildcats.

"I want to be more of a leader on the team now that I am a senior," he said. "I want to improve on everything statistic wise. The good thing about being a goalie is that you can kind of be a selfish player. If I play well, usually the team succeeds."

Di Girolamo began playing hockey because he wanted to be like his brother. The boys played baseball and hockey, until around middle school and high school when a decision had to be made. Di Girolamo chose to dedicate his life to hockey, while his brother chose baseball. He became a goalie when he was about 9 years old when his team lost their two netminders.

"Everyone hated playing goal, but I loved everything about it," he said. "I remember just liking everything. I loved all the new equipment, and as I got older, I loved designing the helmet."

Di Girolamo started out with some guidance from a goalie great. His first pads were hand-me-downs from Mike Richter, who donated them to his hometown arena. As he grew older, he started really admiring Ed Belfour and other goaltenders of the era.

While Di Girolamo has yet to see the sizable crowds that Richter and Belfour performed before, the Whittemore Center and other arenas in Hockey East and beyond have allowed for many exciting experiences. From his position between the pipes, playing at UNH is one of his favorite places to be.

"Compared to other schools, they may have a ton of money and they may have a cool locker room, but our home crowd can't be beat," he said. "Like when we ‘White out the Whit,' it's just great. If you're having a rough game, the fans can really turn things around for you."

In the coming year, Di Girolamo hopes not only bring another top-notch season to Wildcat fans, but to help the team become alone atop the college hockey world.

"Every year, we're one of the top two teams in Hockey East, and I'm hoping this is the year we can get beyond that and be No. 1," he said. "I think we're going to have a breakthrough year."

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