My NCAA Bracket Picks With Analysis


Alright, here we go.

(1) St. Cloud over (4) Air Force

Cloud is just better. Air Force was up and down all season, but in their comparable OOC game (@Denver) they got slaughtered 6-0. I don’t think it’ll be this bad – goalie Billy Christopoulos has been playing out of his mind lately – but the Huskies’ fourth-ranked offense is just going to be too much for the Falcons.

(2) Minnesota State over (3) Minnesota Duluth

These two teams actually met in OOC, splitting, with the home team winning both games. So it’s basically a coin flip. Mankato has been the most underrated team in the country this season in my opinion, with a powerful offense (most goals per game in the nation) and stellar defense (4th in GAA) and the best CF% in the nation. I think that gets you past a UMD team that made the tournament by the skin of their teeth, especially with an added week of rest after losing the WCHA semis to a white-hot Michigan Tech.

(2) Minnesota State over (1) St. Cloud

This is another coin flip. The road team won both games in OOC. The stats say Mankato; even though they did play inferior competition, until that WCHA semifinal they had lost just one game in 2018 (a 5-0 loss in a trap game at Alaska). I wasn’t convinced by SCSU’s NCHC tournament (barely escaping Miami, then scraping by North Dakota in OT before getting crushed by Denver in the final). Granted I could hold that against Mankato as well, but I’ve been high on them all year.


(4) Princeton over (1) Ohio State

34, 36, 43, 54, 58. That is the final Pairwise ranking of Ohio State’s OOC opponents. They have not had a test all season, so I’m not convinced by their (superior) underlying numbers. I’m not counting the Big Ten as a test because most of those teams played only cupcakes in OOC, so we don’t know how actually good they really are because their RPI is inflated by winning gimmes, and as you’ll see I expect to see them exposed as paper tigers. Meanwhile, Princeton is hot after knocking off the top 3 seeds in the ECAC en route to a tournament title, and their OOC includes two ties against St. Cloud. I’m riding the hot hand. Also, they have the third-best offense in the nation, and that matches up interestingly with the sixth-best defense in the nation (though again, consider their foes…)

(2) Denver over (3) Penn State

Denver played Penn State off the ice last year in the NCAAs, and Penn State came in on fire after winning the B1G and hanging 10 on Union in the first round. They’re not that hot this year and Denver is the hot hand now. Penn State will have essential home ice playing in Allentown, but Denver’s just flat-out better; despite Guy Gadowsky being known for a “SHOOT THE PUCK FOREVER” style of offense and PSU’s cupcake OOC, Denver actually had better possession metrics, and give me Tanner Jaillet over Peyton Jones any day.  They’ve been there before.

(2) Denver over (4) Princeton

Denver’s just flat-out better. Princeton arrived ahead of schedule, and their future is bright. But the Pioneers have the talent and experience to head back to the Frozen Four.

(1) Cornell over (4) Boston

This regional in Worcester is interesting in that I think three of the teams could get out of the conference. BU is hot, going seven unbeaten to end the season, but Cornell has been stupendous all year with their defense and goaltending despite losing to a hot Princeton in the ECAC semis. BU actually has better underlying numbers, but I think Mike Schafer should be able to out coach David Quinn, and the goaltending should see Cornell through.

(3) Northeastern over (2) Michigan

We all know how much of a dumpster fire this UVM men’s season was. Guess who Michigan’s best win against a non-B1G team was? Yup, the Wolverines are another paper tiger and one that went 0-5 against a team in conference that wasn’t even #1 (Ohio State), and who got outplayed in both of their “quality” OOC games (losing 3-0 to Clarkson and 6-4 to Bowling Green, and the only reason that was that close was because BG took their foot off the gas with a comfortable lead). Northeastern’s offense is lethal, especially on the PP, and Michigan can’t kill penalties and gave up more goals per game than UVM did this year. And unlike 2016, the Huskies actually have a goalie that can make a save in Cayden Primeau. Both have similar underlying numbers but…just take the freaking Huskies, seriously, Michigan is criminally overrated.

(1) Cornell over (3) Northeastern

Coin flip. Elite offensive team (Cornell has the lowest GAA) vs. elite defensive team (Northeastern has the 5th most goals per game). Similar underlying numbers. I’m leaning defense here, so that’s why I’m going with Big Red to punch their ticket to Minneapolis. But any of Cornell, Northeastern, or BU could make the Frozen Four and make an impact.

(4) Michigan Tech over (1) Notre Dame

Oooooh, this is my hottest take. Notre Dame is ripe for an upset, riding a PDO bubble and being a net-negative possession team (Tech is about 50-50). In addition, Tech is hot, beating two very good teams (Mankato and Northern Michigan) in the last two rounds of the WCHA tournament. If Cale Morris wasn’t posting a stupid .946, and was closer to average, you would not be considering the Irish as a title contender or even a tournament team. And Tech’s shown they can beat elite goaltending after lighting up Michael Bitzer (you know, the guy who’s posted the second most shutouts in NCAA history) in the WCHA quarters. And they’ve got hot goaltending, as after replacing an injured Devin Kero, ex-UVM keeper Packy Munson has a .968 in the WCHA semis and final, and was also huge early in the season in helping Tech win the Ice Breaker. That’s clutch. Oh, and Tech’s played the whole postseason on the road, which will benefit them at a neutral site more than Notre Dame playing at home.

(2) Providence over (3) Clarkson

Providence to me is a boom or bust team depending on how Hayden Hawkey plays. If he’s even passable, the Friars could win it all with stupendous underlying numbers and a balanced roster. If he’s bad, and he has been at times this year, they’re cooked. They did go 0-2 against Clarkson in the regular season, but Clarkson ended their regular season in a death spiral after their PDO bubble popped. Jake Kielly is an amazing goalie, but if he’s not playing at an elite level Clarkson is likely screwed, and you could tell that for most of 2018, he’s been experiencing burnout. I expect that to continue in the NCAAs.

(2) Providence over (4) Michigan Tech

Road ends here for Cinderella Tech. Notre Dame has a PDO bubble and underwhelming underlying numbers. Providence has neither. The Friars will get more chances and not have to rely on goaltending as much as the Irish, and that should be enough to see them through unless Munson plays the game of his life.

Frozen Four

Denver over Minnesota State

I went back and forth on this one. I think the Pioneers’ big-game experience is going to pay huge dividends. This is where having a set bracket sucks because I think this would be a hell of a national championship game – these two and St. Cloud are honestly my three most likely title picks.

Providence over Cornell

Okay, this one’s just gut feeling. Plus the fact that Cornell lost in the ECAC semifinals to Princeton. Can’t really back it up with evidence or stats…

Denver over Providence

Yes, the Pios repeat. They have a better balance than Providence and more reliable goaltending, and unlike the Friars have proven they can come up big on the big stage (crushing St. Cloud in the NCHC final this year and winning the natty last year, while PC lost the Hockey East final to BU and got beat 3-0 by Harvard in the NCAAs last year after being crushed in the Hockey East Octofinals).


Women’s Preview: Hockey East Quarterfinals

I’m going to do a series-by-series analysis for each quarterfinal matchup, not just UVM’s.

(1) Boston College vs (8) Vermont

Analysis: Welp. The doomsday scenario happened (BU and UConn both swept last weekend and UVM lost). So it’s off to Conte Forum, as UVM faces a team they haven’t beaten in the Plumer era, though they did come close last month (taking them to OT in the first game and leading in the third in the second before Toni Ann Miano put an end to that).

The first thing UVM needs to do to have a chance is get the offense going again. They’ve scored just three goals in the last four games. They’ll also need to play stupendous on D, which is something they did at Conte a couple weeks ago. And of course, Sydney Scobee is going to have to step up and be a money goalie. Basically: everything needs to go perfect. That’s how good BC is, even without Megan Keller and Cayla Barnes. I know UVM will give maximum effort – I’ve seen this team all season and know that they always give 100% – but will that be enough against this juggernaut who is on a collision course with Wisconsin for a national title showdown?

Prediction: Gaaah. My heart says UVM. I’ve seen how this team plays against big opponents, and they have a ton of heart, especially in high-stakes games. My brain would’ve agreed if we were playing Providence or even Maine. But BC is a different animal. You have to be better than perfect to beat them. I’ll give UVM a game, but BC probably will take the series.

(2) Providence vs (7) UConn

Analysis: So this is an interesting one. Providence has been pretty good all season, but they’ve stumbled late, with a 7 game winless funk from January 20 to February 11. That included an OT loss to these very Huskies at Freitas Ice Forum. UConn, on the other hand, has been on a tear lately, having lost just one game in the last month (the 1-0 loss to UVM at Pack the Gut). The Huskies’ D and goaltending has been solid, and the UVM series aside their offense has really heated up lately, while Providence’s offense hasn’t scored more than 2 goals in a game since January 13. That being said, the Friars have defended home ice well this season with a 11-4-1 record at Schneider Arena while UConn has won just three games away from Storrs  this season. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: Providence is slumping but has home ice and a decent record at home, while UConn is hot but has been bad on the road.

Prediction: I think the form will hold up more than the home ice. UConn is rolling, and as much as I love Vermont native Madison Myers, I just think Annie Belanger is more likely to steal a playoff game. Huskies take it in three, and PC gets upset at home in round 1 for the second year in a row.

(3) Maine vs (6) Boston University

Analysis: Another interesting one where the high seed has struggled. Maine sat at 16-6-3 on January 13 and 9th in the national polls. Since then, they have gone a dismal 1-6-2, and have only scored more than two goals once in that stretch (the lone win, a 3-0 win over rivals UNH). They did sweep the season  series over the inconsistent Terriers (who come in having won 5 of 7), but the playoffs are a different beast.   That said, I’m looking forward to this battle of two of my favorite non-UVM players to watch in WHEA: Maine’s Tereza Vanišová and BU’s Victoria Bach. BU will be motivated by this being the last run for their dynamic duo of Bach and Rebecca Leslie, so there’s an underlying motivation, I guess.

Prediction: While Maine has slumped lately, goaltending wins you games in the playoffs. And in my opinion, Carly Jackson is a better goalie than Corrine Schroeder right now. I think Maine’s offense gets going again and they take the series in 3.

(4) Northeastern vs (5) New Hampshire

Analysis: This is as even as you can get for a first round matchup. Both teams are quite similar across most categories. Both have no one true star. Both have terrific freshman goalies. Both sit around .500. Both were better at home than on the road. Northeastern was a bit better offensively but UNH was better defensively. If there’s one playoff series to watch, it’s probably this one.

Prediction: It’s really a battle of “do you value home ice” vs “do you buy into defense wins championships.” I think home ice holds and the Huskies get it done in 3 with at least one OT game.

Men’s Preview: UVM @ BU (2x)

Before I get to talking about BU, let’s iron out the teams you’re looking out for if you want home ice for UVM:

  • UMass plays at a white-hot UConn tonight and Providence on Saturday. UVM just needs to equal or outpoint them.
  • UNH plays a home and home with Northeastern this weekend. UVM can afford to be level on points with the Wildcats due to UVM owning the tiebreaker.
  • Merrimack would need to sweep and for UVM to get swept, but it’s still possible to catch UVM. They’re playing a home and home with Lowell…a team UVM can still catch if they and Merrimack both sweep.

Okay. So the BU Terriers. What a massive disappointment. With another season of eleven million draft picks, the Terriers were Hockey East’s preseason #1 and the nation’s #2. Now, they’re not even ranked in the national poll, and sit 7 points behind BC for first in fourth place.

So what’s been the problem? Well, replacing Clayton Keller, Charlie McAvoy, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson isn’t easy, and BU’s new freshmen haven’t been able to step up as much, especially on the blueline. Their offense is better (19th in the nation in goals per game last year and 9th right now), but their D took a huge step back (from 9th to 27th in goals against average). Jake Oettinger also took a step back with his .928 SV% last year dropping to .907 this year.

I think part of it is coaching, for the record. BU tends to get caught in pond hockey situations where the D becomes a disorganized mess and they try to get too fancy offensively, leading to scoring chances the other way. David Quinn’s saving grace is his recruiting, where he gets a bunch of talented players. But I mean, come on, you’ve had elite recruiting classes year after year and yet you haven’t won any hardware without Jack Eichel and probably won’t make the tournament this year unless you win the autobid.

Now, onto..

Three Things to Watch Out For:

  1. So Few Kills They’re Probably a Hanzo Main. BU’s penalty kill is the seventh-worst in the nation, which I guess makes sense for a team I’ve accused of playing pond hockey. If UVM can cash in on the PP, this weekend will be more winnable.
  2. Aghast at Agganis. Home ice has not played in BU’s favor this year, as the Terriers sit at 5-6-3 at home. That’s a far cry from the 13-3-2 they were last season. UVM has been solid on the road lately, so this could be a chance to solidify home ice.
  3. On His Greenway? It sounds like Jordan Greenway will be available for BU this weekend after playing on the US Olympic team. Greenway’s physicality could be a huge asset for the Terriers, and I think the three big defenders of UVM (Evers, Thomas, and Massie) will be important this weekend.

Games are Friday at 7:30 and Saturday at 7. BU streams through Stadium on their site for free.

Two crucial games to end the regular season. Will we be headed back to Gutterson? Or should we shutter the Gutt for the summer? This team’s gotta prove they want to come home and have 2-3 more games on home ice.

Big Cats Gotta Eat.

Go Cats.

UVM’s Student Spirit Problem


The picture above, which I grabbed from UVM Athletics’ Facebook page, was taken just over a year ago, December 9, 2016, a night that saw #12 UVM beat # BU 4-2.

The atmosphere in Gutterson was amazing that night. We had chant battles with the BU fans. When Ross Colton buried the empty netter, the part of the student section I stand in basically turned into a moshpit. And, more or less, that was the student section for much of my first 2.5 years here (I took a semester off after my first one, and will be graduating NEXT summer, so I got another year at UVM after this).

For those first 2.5 years, the student end was on point. You stood all game save for intermission, and there were plenty of chants, some creative (“We Hate Fracking” at North Dakota was my favorite) and some not (the nuclear “F— You [OTHER TEAM]” that was only ever broken out if we were getting slaughtered).

But this year? The student end has been dead from the time the first puck dropped against Colorado College. There’s no spirit, and the lack of enthusiasm has gotten to the point where students are chanting to get people to stand up. The Den flag has been AWOL for a few weeks. And this goes beyond just hockey – basketball hasn’t been great either, or soccer back in the fall, although for the latter there isn’t really a culture of student support (that’s something that I think could change as soccer has seen some great success recently, with an AE tourney title in 2015, an NCAA tournament home game in 2016, and an AE regular season title last year and some very exciting players).

So what’s not working? I don’t have the full answer. Most people I see tend to point toward marketing, some will point at the students, some will point to results (though I think the lackluster student atmosphere at basketball negates that). But here are some ideas I have to engage students at UVM athletic events.

  1. Separate GA from student tickets for men’s basketball, men’s soccer, and men’s hockey. It gets real awkward when 3/4 of your section is students who want to get rowdy and another quarter is GA people, usually older in demographics that don’t want to deal with that riffraff. This is a minor thing, but maybe making the two sections next to the band the student section and leave section 12 to GA? I’d happily sacrifice my spot in the middle of Section 12, Row Q if it meant a more organized setup. Women’s sports don’t tend to draw a whole lot, but if one of them explodes in popularity out of nowhere (maybe women’s basketball gets back to the early-90s glory days, or women’s hockey explodes), I would support this there as well.
  2. Dump the Clear Bag policy for men’s basketball and men’s hockey. Least likely to happen, but come on, no one likes this. It alienates half your fanbase (women, especially mothers of infants who can no longer bring in diaper bags), and for…what reason, exactly? More leg room? I’m sorry, but no one ever complained about my totes the last couple of years, and I recently got a new bag that is even smaller…but is still too big. (And I need a bag not just because I’m a woman, but because I am a type 1 diabetic and need to carry supplies as well – a glucometer, fast-acting sugar, emergency infusion sets and batteries for my pump, etc.) “Oh but other schools are implementing it!” Maybe that’s part of why a lot of athletic events are seeing a decrease in attendance? Don’t adopt the policy of a league (NFL) whose attendance is declining if you don’t want your own attendance to drop (and hell I’ve seen people literally drop going to NFL/CFB games just because of it). And most people aren’t aware of it until they get to the Gutt, only to be told “you can’t bring that in.” By that point, especially if you’re a student living on campus without a car, it’s too much of a pain in the butt to walk back to your dorm (unless you live on Athletic) and it’s too risky to leave it at the door. So what do you do? Skip on the game and spend your time doing something else. If you want to know how small your bag has to be to go in, I think the limit is 4.5″ x 6″. My hand, from wrist to tip of my middle finger, is roughly 8″. Good luck finding a bag literally smaller than the average person’s hand! I get no backpacks or seat cushions with backs. But even turning people away for a purse? C’mon, you’re being daft. TL;DR: The clear bag policy is sexist, screws mothers of small children, and makes people prefer to stay home and stream instead of showing up to games. DON’T USE IT.
  3. Market Stronger. As a sports writer and someone whose passion for UVM athletics is a bit…over-the-top, I’m an oddball in that I know when all the games are. But the average UVM student has no idea. The only knowledge we have of upcoming games comes in the form of emails, which is pretty ineffective at a school where not reading e-mails (current students and recent grads know what I’m talking about) is basically a meme, and posters…on Athletic Campus. Which if they’re not coming in the first place, how are they supposed to know to come? More promotion of upcoming games would be nice.  Flyers in busy areas where students will be, such as the Davis Center and the dining halls, would be a good start.
  4. Incentives to Come to Games. Kinda goes in hand with 3, but to get students to the games, you usually have to dangle a carrot in their face. When I first came to UVM, there were fan fests at the indoor track with pizza and free stuff if you came early. That gets people to show up! The only time I can recall one of those over the last 12 months was the America East Championship basketball game. It doesn’t have to be that specifically, but some sort of incentive would be nice. And no, the Cat Pride Club app doesn’t really count when A) so few people know it exists and B) there’s only 3 prizes (a scarf, a frisbee, and a license plate holder).
  5. Spirit Squad. A lot of student sections across the country have leaders that also function as something of a spirit squad that gets the students excited. (UNH, for example, has the “Cat Pack Captains.”) Why doesn’t UVM? It would probably also help marketing, as – speaking from the point of view of a student – it means a lot more coming from other students than it does from higher-ups. Hell, this squad could also host watch parties for road games and stuff like that (an idea I’m taking from Mitch’s Misfits at Michigan Tech, who hosts one every week). And yes, I would volunteer if such a squad became a thing, so I’m not just offering empty talk, I’ll put my money where my mouth is if I have to (I’ve been pondering trying to start something up for soccer, but I don’t quite have the networking/people skills to pull it off on my own).

Look. I don’t have all the answers to this problem. But UVM needs to find some. Our student-athletes deserve better than what they’ve gotten this year in terms of support. And I know we only have 3 home games max left (none at all at worst), but the offseason gives you 7-8 months to get some sort of plan together, and much of that is empty summer nothingness. Why not spend it helping set up the best home field/ice/court advantage for our student-athletes?

Men’s Hockey: A Tribute to the Seniors

With tonight’s game against Northeastern, five players will be playing their final regular season game at the Gutt. Now, there may be more home games depending on if we can secure home ice…but still, I do these on senior day.

There were some ups and downs with this group, whether it be the solid 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons, the unlucky 2015-16 season, or this one. But still, they put in the work for four years and deserve recognition.

Let’s recognize those playing their last regular season games at Gutterson today.

#10 – Forward – Travis Blanleil

Career Statistics: 89 GP, 7-6-13

Blanleil doesn’t pop out on the stat sheet, and he’s a small guy. But I’m not sure there’s a person on this roster that (from the eye test) busts his ass more than him. A fierce forechecker and relentless backchecker, along with a positive presence in the locker room, Blanleil always gave 100% effort, whether UVM was trailing 5-0, winning 5-0, or duking it out in a tie game.

#19 – Forward – Jarrid Privitera

Career Statistics: 134 GP, 27-32-59

When Jarrid’s brother Alexx left BU in 2013, Jarrid also decommitted from the Terriers, electing to go with his brother. And when Alexx chose UVM, so, too, did Jarrid. Over his four-year career, Privitera has provided some solid scoring from the middle-six, and has contributed defensively as well on the PK.

#23 – Forward – Rob Darrar (C)

Career Statistics: 107 GP, 12-22-34

I’ll be honest and say I was really surprised when Darrar was named captain. A former teammate of Privitera’s at Dubuque, Darrar was in the midst of a career year as a junior before an injury took the wind out of his sails. He’s still solid, but is playing a bottom-six depth scorer and power play point man role as opposed to a top 6 role.

#26 – Defender – Trey Phillips

Career Statistics: 99 GP, 4-11-15

Phillips is an oddball, having joined the team midway through the 2014-15 season alongside Ori Abramson. An undersized defender, he’s one of only 3 righties on the team. He actually played forward at Brooks, but D at UVM. Never a staple in the lineup, he nevertheless carved out a decent role with the team.

#28 – Forward – Anthony Petruzzelli

Career Statistics: 134 GP, 21-21-42

Had UVM held on for the tie, “Rico” would have been the hero last night. A key scorer for some good Brooks teams in junior, Petruzzelli didn’t fill that role at UVM, but rather that of a bottom-six depth scorer and penalty killer. He did give us one memorable moment, though: the OT winner at Conte in 2015 that gave UVM its first win against the Eagles in 5 years.

Thanks for the four years everyone, and good luck.

Men’s Preview: #12 Northeastern @ UVM (2x)

I don’t know what’s weirder: the fact that UVM, after showing zero signs of life in November and December, has gone 7 games unbeaten, or the fact that Northeastern is the reigning Beanpot champions.

Maybe the fact that both are true?

The Catamounts have been one of the hottest teams in the country lately with their 7-game unbeaten streak. But now they face a tough test in a strong Northeastern team on an emotional high after becoming legends on Huntington Avenue, ending 30 years of Beanpot misery for the Huskies behind an Adam Gaudette hat trick.

This Northeastern team scores a ton of goals – they are tied for 7th in goals per game. But unlike last year, they can actually keep the puck out of the net and are 7th in goals against per game. Ryan Ruck is still there, and he’s still mediocre, but he’s also injured at the moment. But Cayden Primeau has stolen the show and the starting job with a .926 SV%, making me eat my words on him from the start of the year.

Three Things to Look Out For:

  1. Oh God That Top Line. You simply cannot beat Northeastern by trying to outgun the top line of Gaudette, Dylan Sikura, and Nolan Stevens, a unit that has combined for 121 points. Gaudette and Sikura are the top two scorers in the country, and Gaudette has the most goals in the nation. UVM is going to have to try and slow them down with good positioning and reading the game and outgunning the bottom 3 lines.
  2. Emotions All Over. On one side, Northeastern is coming off an emotional high of getting that Beanpot monkey off their back. On the other, it’s UVM’s senior weekend, and that’s always an emotional time. Look for a highly spirited affair, and I expect the emotional state of the teams to affect the play.
  3. NU Road Semi-Woes. The Huskies are 17-8-5, but they’ve been pretty shaky on the road, with a 4-4-3 record away from Matthews (and TD Garden which was basically Matthews…what direction is TD Garden from Matthews? I’m not an expert in Boston geography). They have not won a single game outside of the state of Massachusetts. That’s an interesting observation, and unless I’m missing something, Vermont is not a part of Massachusetts. If the Cats can get some home cooking going, I’m more optimistic.

Games are Friday and Saturday at 7. Keep the momentum going.

UVM students, I know I’ve been critical…but let’s give the team the best home ice advantage we can on senior weekend and keep pushing for Octofinals home ice – we’re one point up on UMass for the final home ice spot with a game in hand but UMass has the tiebreaker.


Women’s Preview: UVM @ Northeastern, The Math Edition

Normally I wouldn’t do a preview since we just played NU like 3 weeks ago, but in here I will be showing how other results could affect where UVM is seeded in the playoffs.

We know we’re on the road round 1, we know 6th is our ceiling (that Merrimack loss two weeks ago knocked us out of contention for 5th), and we know the opponent will be either BC, Maine, Providence, or UNH.

My advice to the team is the same as last week: focus on what you can control, and that is in this case defeating the Northeastern Huskies, a team you swept three weeks ago at Gutterson. Everything else will take care of itself.

So without further ado, here is where UVM will place depending on results:


  • BU earns 3-4 points vs UNH: 7th
  • BU earns 1-2 points vs UNH: 6th
  • The UConn/Merrimack results will not matter as UVM has tiebreaker with UConn


  • BU earns more than 1 point and UConn doesn’t sweep: 7th
  • BU earns more than 1 point and UConn sweeps: 8th (BC round 1)
  • BU is swept by UNH and UConn sweeps: 7th
  • BU is swept by UNH and UConn fails to sweep: 6th


  • BU earns any points and UConn earns 3+ points: 8th (BC round 1)
  • BU earns any points and UConn earns less than 3 points: 7th
  • BU is swept by UNH and UConn earns less than 3 points: 6th

Merrimack can’t catch UVM, as they are four points back and UVM holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.

I’m pretty sure I’ve knocked out all the permutations and my moron maritime mental math is right.

Game is Friday at 7 and will be streamed on NU’s website.

Let’s get another W and some momentum heading into playoffs.

Go Cats.

Women’s Hockey: A Tribute to the Seniors

I’m going to start this with some waxing nostalgic. I swear it comes back to this class.

September 26, 2014. My first time experiencing a UVM hockey game at Gutterson Fieldhouse. UVM women were playing McGill in a preseason game. We got crushed 4-0, but I enjoyed myself enough to give the women’s team some of my attention that I hadn’t the previous year when I was still at home finishing high school. Three weeks later I was at the home opener against RPI, a 2-2 tie. And from then on, I was hooked.

After tomorrow, I will never see a UVM women’s game at Gutterson again with a player the team that I saw against McGill and RPI (I should note that two players who were also freshmen that year, Molly Depew and Bella Webster, left early). The team that got me into caring about women’s hockey,  a sport I now write about for SB Nation. And thus I feel sort of a “bond” with this group, even though I’m willing to bet most of them have never spoken to me. (Although I know for a fact one of them has, haha.)

So let’s recognize those suiting up at Gutterson for the final time this afternoon.

#2 – Forward – Kourtney Menches

Career Totals: 131 GP, 9-15-24

Menches has made most of her career as a solid glue player despite her small 5’2″ frame. One that isn’t flashy, but will work hard and do dirty work to free up space for other players, and that can also kill penalties. After missing a chunk of the early season with an injury suffered in a preseason tie against the U of Montreal, Mench has turned into a solid two-way forward this year, with 12 points making up half of her career total. She is also the kind of student that you want as proof that you can excel on and off the ice, as a three-time Hockey East Top Scholar and All-Academic Team member, with one of those Top Scholars being as the highest GPA in the entire conference.

#10 – Forward – Mackenzie MacNeil

Career Totals: 136 GP, 17-20-37

If you hesitate for one second as a defender, MacNeil has you beat. A tireless worker and strong forechecker, MacNeil might be one of the fastest players in all of Hockey East, and scored a hat trick earlier this year against Ryerson in the Theresa Humes Invitational, an event that many have credited for UVM’s turnaround. According to a Cynic web article from January, which you can find here, she’s undecided on whether or not she wants to continue her hockey career and go pro. Like Menches, she’s also sharp in the classroom, as a member of the Hockey East All-Academic team last year.

#11 – Defender – Katherine Pate

Career Totals: 128 GP, 2-16-18

When you’re undersized, you need to bust your butt in order to make a hockey career work. Especially on defense. And Katherine Pate, listed at 5’2″, has done just that. Again, she’s not a world-beater, but she works hard and plays her role as a bottom-pairing defender quite well, and her smart positioning allows her to overcome her shorter stature. And with her, the run on good students continues, as she was also a member of the Hockey East All-Academic team in 2017.

#12 – Defender – Amanda Drobot

Career Totals: 141 GP, 5-38-43

Here’s something you probably didn’t realize: when UVM plays Game 2 of the Hockey East quarterfinals, whether it be in Orono or Providence or Chestnut Hill, Drobot will be making history as the UVM player with the most games played (Sarah Kelly played 144). As a freshman, she posted 17 points, then dropped to 5 as a sophomore as she was moved to forward. Moving back to the blueline for last season, she rebounded with 9 last year and 12 so far this year. The eye test lately has really been in her favor as I think she’s been playing some of the best hockey of her career; she’s moving the puck nicely, and her chemistry with defense partner Sammy Kolowrat is evident – I’ve liked that pairing since it was put together. If she wants to, I think she could go pro.

#27 – Defender – Taylor Willard (C)

Career Totals: 141 GP, 21-41-62

Three-time Hockey East All-Academic, two-time Hockey East All-Star, and last season was a New England Hockey Writers Association Division I All-Star. With all due respect, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call Willard the best defender in program history. 62 points is 6th in program history (barring an absolute explosion in the last two games and in the playoffs, I don’t think she’ll catch Victoria Andreakos’s 69), her 41 assists is tied for 4th, and has she proven to be a solid captain. And the thing is, she’s not just offensively gifted (she can be breathtaking when she rushes the puck up the ice), as she does not neglect her defensive duties. If she does elect to go pro – which she has the talent to do – some CWHL or NWHL team is going to be very lucky. And like Drobot, she will break the UVM games played record when the Cats take to the ice for their second WHEA quarterfinal game, having missed just two games during her UVM career (the games at Providence and UConn at the start of this season).

Thank you for all you’ve done for this program, seniors. On the ice, you’ve been terrific to watch grow from freshmen just establishing themselves to seniors with plenty of experience. From your first official game against then-#8 (and still existing) North Dakota at the Ralph to these last few weeks against Minnesota, BC, etc, you’ve helped this program make some serious strides and showed the potential of Vermont women’s hockey. Let’s make sure you go out on a high note and build on the foundation you’ve helped lay down.

RECAP: UVM (W) 1, UConn 0

It wasn’t a pretty game in front of 1,876 at Gutterson.

But in crunch time, it doesn’t have to be. All that matters is the two points.

And UVM got them.

In a grindfest that was very remniscent of a playoff game, the Catamounts and Huskies duked it out in Pack the Gut V, in front of just under 2,000 at Gutterson, with UVM eking out a tight 1-0 victory thanks to some amazing goaltending from Sydney Scobee.

Only one goal to talk about, and it came in the third. Alyssa Holmes with a lovely drop pass to Ali O’Leary, which she sniped past Annie Belanger. Simple, 1-0, Cats hold on.

Before I get to my extra thoughts…where does that leave Hockey East?

Seed Team Pts GR Opponents
6 Boston Univ. 17 2 at UNH, UNH
7 Vermont 17 2 UConn, at NU
8 UConn 15 3 at UVM, MC (2)
9 Merrimack 14 3 NU, at UConn (2)

Tiebreak info you need to know:

-UVM holds tiebreaker with UConn and Merrimack

-BU holds tiebreaker with UVM, UConn, and Merrimack

-Merrimack won their lone meeting with UConn earlier this season

Basically, I’m not going to do calculations, but I’m pretty sure a UVM win tomorrow clinches a tournament spot, as for 9th-place Merrimack to catch UVM (who would be 5 points clear), they’d have to beat UConn, which would then mean the Huskies can’t catch UVM. I don’t know, it’s confusing. But UVM can still grab that 6 seed, they’re just going to need some help from UNH to do so in addition to doing their job. As I said in the preview: focus on what you can control – i.e. win your own games – and the rest will take care of itself.

Anywho, now on to “some thoughts”:

-Saana Valkama didn’t point, but she was extremely active offensively and with the exception of O’Leary was probably the best player for UVM on offense.

-Some silly late penalties, some soft, others not. The PK – and especially Scobee – was phenomenal, much better than it was Sunday.

-Speaking of Scobee…if this is what she’s like in pressure situations, we have a money goalie that can steal playoff games, which is vital when you’re the underdog.

-Fun fact: This is UVM’s second win in Pack the Gut games, bringing their record to exactly .500. They defeated Union 4-0 in Pack the Gut II, lost to BC in the first PTG and UConn in the third, and tied UNH last year for a record of 2-2-1.

-As I said before the game…this is always a chance to showcase the program. The game wasn’t pretty, but people will watch winning teams. UVM is a school that has historically supported its women’s programs when they’re good (see: women’s basketball in its heyday). If even 10% of the people in attendance started going to the occasional game, that’s 187 new fans. That’s not small for women’s hockey.

Senior Day rematch tomorrow. Seniors tribute will be up in the AM.

Men’s Preview: UVM @ UNH (2x)

I mean, better late than never to get it together, right? RIGHT?

Yeah. Last weekend was great. (Other than the student section which was awful.) Let’s keep that going, shall we?

Much like the UVM women, it’s going to be an emotional weekend for the UNH men. Though it’s not their final home game, they are holding Coach Umile Weekend, as the Wildcats honor their longtime head coach, who is retiring after the season. No matter your opinion of Umile, you have to respect the job he did at UNH (up until recently) and Hockey East won’t be the same without him.

That said, what started as a year that looked like UNH would send their coach out on a high note has turned into a debacle, as the Wildcats went into not a slump, but a death spiral. After starting 5-1-1, UNH has gone 5-12-4, and have only won back-to-back games once since their five-game win streak to open the year.

They did make history last weekend, with Kohei Sato becoming the first Japanese player ever to score at the D1 men’s college level. So that’s something, I guess.

There are bright spots on this team, namely Max Gildon who will be in the Hockey East Rookie of the Year conversation. But the Wildcats have been awful in possession with a 46.3 CF%, and are largely being bailed out by Danny Tirone who has been solid in net for them (UNH is 10th nationally in save percentage). When you’re being outpossessed that badly, wins are rare to come by unless you get elite-level goaltending, and with how erratic Tirone has been throughout his career, their start to the season just wasn’t sustainable.

Three Things to Look Out For

  1. Lake Whitt. Always a factor in playing at UNH is that ginormously big rink. The size of Whittemore Center changes the game completely; you can’t rely so much on physicality, but rather speed and skill. If I’m Sneddon, my lineup is based entirely on skill. Keep the top line together, and even that Coughlin line that’s been stupendous of late…but other than that, you need to optimize your lineup according to the game that will be played. And it won’t be a meat grinder.
  2. Start Strong. If UNH isn’t winning after one period, they usually don’t – they’re 3-12-3 if they go into the break either trailing or tying. If the Catamounts can get off to a strong start, they’ll be in a good position to grab some W’s.
  3. Importance. UVM and UNH are tied for the 8th spot in Hockey East and home ice in the Octofinals. If this weekend ends in a tie and a win or a sweep, the team that won will get a vital tiebreaker. In my opinion, UVM needs this badly, especially with 4 games coming up against a great Northeastern team and a white-hot Boston University.

Games are Friday and Saturday at 7. UNH streams on ESPN3 so that’s where it’ll be.

Just keep winning. Big Cats Gotta Eat.

Go Cat(amount)s.