After an emotional rollercoaster of a win Saturday to earn a split against UConn, can UVM build some momentum against a struggling BC?
First of all: My sincerest apologies for the lack of pieces in the last two weeks. I had midterms two weeks ago and last week was at a protest on Monday that left me devoid of energy for the week.
And now the schedulemakers continue their work on making UVM women’s schedule as weird as possible as, for the second straight Tuesday, the Catamounts will play, making the quick trip to Hanover to battle the Dartmouth Big Green.
No longer a trap game, the Merrimack Warriors are now a tough game, as UVM visits Lawler Rink this weekend.
Y’know, there are some days where you just wonder why on earth you’re a sports fan. Watching both UVM teams not-win the way they did today is one of those days. I’m gonna start the recaps with the women’s game as it ended earlier and there was no earth-shattering upset that had the men leap in the priority order.
Progress! You want to see growth out of a young team, and I feel like we saw some from UVM tonight.
Won’t be talking about last night’s exhibition as it was a super pointless game (what’s the point of playing the exhibition when you’ve already played), so let’s just get into this quickly…but first, the game info.
So apologies that this one might feel rushed – I’ve got a million things going on, including the men’s game tonight. (Gotta leave early due to this god-awful weather and now being on Trinity and not Athletic…)
But the women play two games this weekend against Quinnipiac, a team that dominated the Catamounts in a sweep last season. But it looks a bit more even this year. Why? Read on…
Y’know, I started doing the season preview to replace exhibition previews, where I analyzed Canadian teams I knew nothing about. I didn’t expect to have to do it after a game had already been played. So this will be part-predictions and part-takeaways from the Michigan upset.
Goaltenders: Stefanos Lekkas (Jr.), Tyler Harmon (Soph.), Matt Beck (Soph.)
Can we all agree Lekkas just put forth the best goaltending performance UVM will probably have all season? That’s not to say he’ll suck – he’s a great goalie on his day – but that was a type of performance I’ve not seen in a long time. If he can put together some consistency, there’s no reason he can’t be one of the better goalies in Hockey East. When he’s on, he’s ON…it’s just when he’s not on that can be concerning.
As for his backups, Harmon will probably be the backup that actually gets minutes, and he’s a good compliment to Lekkas. Whereas Lekkas is a smaller goalie that primarily makes saves with his great athleticism, Harmon is a more of a big positional goalie that lets shots come to him. As for Beck, well…he seems like a nice dude, but if he winds up playing something has gone horribly wrong. Or horribly right, like when Pat Feeley made a brief appearance during a 7-1 spanking of Bentley a few years back.
Defenders: Matt O’Donnell (Jr.), Jake Massie (Jr.), Corey Moriarty (Jr.), Brian Kelly (Soph.), Owen Grant (Soph.), Christian Evers (Soph.), Cory Thomas (Soph.), Carter Long (Fr.), Andrew Petrillo (Fr.)
This is the area where UVM has to be better this year. And while the Cats got killed in the shot count and shot attempt category in Ann Arbor, I can explain that with two things:
-power plays (Michigan had 28 shot attempts on the PP, 20 of which were on goal)
-score effects (UVM led virtually the entire game, and teams trailing will naturally attempt more shots)
That being said, while it is a logical way of thinking, shot suppression still has to be better. Having some cohesion and consistency helps. The top pair features O’Donnell and Massie, who compliment each other very well – Massie’s more of a stay at home guy who allows for O’Donnell to get forward and play with the puck. The rest is a bit unclear, but the Cats played with Carter Long and Christian Evers on the second pair in Ann Arbor and Cory Thomas and Owen Grant on the third pair. This is more size than I’ve seen from UVM’s blueline in ages.
I do want to give a quick shoutout to Carter Long, who I thought looked good against Michigan. There was one play late in the first where he made a simple poke check to break up a one-on-one. That’s a play I expect a veteran to make. For a kid playing his first college game in that kind of atmosphere? I expect a two minute tripping penalty.
Forwards: Liam Coughlin (Sr.), Conor O’Neil (Sr.), Craig Puffer (Sr.), Derek Lodermeier (Jr.), Matt Alvaro (Jr.), Bryce Misley (Soph.), Vladislav Dzhioshvili (Soph.), Ace Cowans (Soph.), Martin Fréchette (Soph.), Alex Esposito (Soph.), Max Kaufman (Soph.), Dallas Comeau (Fr.), Johnny DeRoche (Fr.), Nic Hamre (Fr.), Joey Cipollone (Fr.)
The big takeaway from that Michigan game for me, besides “Stef Lekkas when he’s good is a literal god,” is that this team’s strength is speed and forechecking. They forced Michigan’s D, who beyond that top pair was either inexperienced or “meh”, to make mistakes with the puck and rush decisions.
The loss of Ross Colton obviously hurts skill-wise, but Liam Coughlin filled in the 1C role pretty well in the opener alongside Matt Alvaro and Alex Esposito, who have picked up where they left off last season. The ACE line is alive and well. Coughlin is obviously a different player than Colton, but his size is a great asset and his puck skills are solid too. This line clicked VERY well in Ann Arbor.
The second line was Martin Fréchette, Vladislav Dzhioshvili, and Bryce Misley. While Misley was fairly quiet, Fréchette and Dzhioshvili – who combined only played 9 games as freshmen (Fréchette was largely a healthy scratch while Dzhioshvili missed the first half of the season with a foot injury), gave the Wolverines fits with their speed and constant pressure, and combined for a very pretty counterattack goal for the kill. The bottom seven that night (DeRoche-Puffer-Cipollone and Kaufman-Lodermeier-O’Neil, with Cowans as an extra forward) was largely pretty meh.
As for the freshmen…DeRoche looks like he can be something offensively (I don’t know what his ceiling is, but his instincts are good and he’s pretty quick), and Hamre will be a fan favorite. He kind of reminds me a bit of Tom Forgione, who I miss a lot. He’s a battler that doesn’t take a shift off and has some offensive pop. Dallas Comeau has some offensive potential as well, and Joey Cipollone seems like an all-round guy more than a potent scorer.
With all this said…there is talent in this team. Now it’s up to Coach Sneddon and his assistants to put it together. Expectations, even within the fanbase, are pretty low. I predicted UVM for 9th in Hockey East, which was in line with the media poll. This staff needs to deliver at least something this year, or the clock will slowly tick towards the end of their stint at UVM. They’ve gotten the Cats off to a good start with a shocking upset win, but as any coach will tell you, it’s a process. With Quinnipiac coming up this weekend, and a stretch of four straight winnable games after that (@New Hampshire and @Brown, then a pair at home with UConn), this is a chance to build momentum and make us believe.
I’m not going to be a prisoner of the moment and say that we’re going to be good based on one game. You need to put together a resume. It’s a good start, don’t get me wrong, and I’m enjoying the moment. I’m just not expecting it to last, even if I tried to be as positive as possible in this preview.
Prove me wrong.
Hello, UVM freshmen. And transfers. And people here on study abroad. And students that are trying to get into UVM hockey for the first time…you get the point. You want to fit in at Gutterson Fieldhouse in the student section, but don’t know where to start. Have no fear, I am here.
When and where should I show up?
Doors at Gutterson open an hour before puck drop. If you want the best seats, arrive early; you can catch warmups too. AND if you arrive early and there’s a promotion that night, you can get your hands on some merch. For example, there’s a cowbell giveaway on Saturday against Quinnipiac!
WARNING: Do not bring bags, unless it’s like a Ziploc. I hate the Gutterson (and Patrick) bag policy too, it’s garbage and doesn’t actually make me feel any safer (in fact I’m more afraid of theft, as I did have a hoodie stolen at a game a couple years ago…which also had my dorm key in it), but it is what it is, and we have to abide by it. (Which doubly sucks for women fans…)
The student entrance is in between Patrick and the main entrance, kind of tucked away. Having a student ticket gets you general admission seats in sections 9-12, where you can sit anywhere in those sections. If you want the rowdiest, best experience where you’re gonna shout yourself hoarse, look to the back of Section 12. Our student section is called “The Den” as the result of a contest held in 2016/17, with the winning entry submitted by Tyler Davis, a former UVM SGA vice president and one of the most passionate UVM fans to be around at a game.
The pep band is between sections 9 and 10. If you don’t want that noise blasting in your ear, don’t sit in those sections. (This isn’t meant to insult our pep band, who is excellent, moreso a warning to people overwhelmed by loud noises; I myself am autistic and get overstimmed by audio a lot, so that’s part of why I tend to reside in 12.)
Help, I can’t decide what to wear!
Just wear something UVM or hockey related! Surely you’ve got something between those two. Preferably a hoodie or jersey, as Gutterson can be pretty cold. There’s no one color that the student section wears as a giant blob.
Okay, I’m in the student section, UVM/hockey apparel and all. What now?
First rule: STAND UP. Or we’ll chant at you to do so. If you physically cannot stand up due to injuries or something like that, that’s fine! But if you can stand and you’re not, you’re doing it wrong. (We don’t usually do this for exhibitions, such as Thursday’s game against Laurentian, but for Quinnipiac on Saturday you better be standing!)
We’ll start with “special times” chants.
OTHER TEAM TAKES A PENALTY
“Skate! Skate! Skate! Skate!” Repeat as long as they take the long journey to the box. When they get into the box, “Sit dowwwwwn!” (Many students add “BITCH” to that, and while I think it’s a little questionable, I can’t police it as I’m just a student myself)
AFTER A GOAL
Scream your head off while the pep band plays the fight song. Once they’re done, “IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT! IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT!” basically until puck drop.
After the goal announcement, there’s usually a “Big Cats Gotta Eat” chant as well.
OTHER GOALIE LIFTS HIS MASK IN FRONT OF STUDENT SECTION
If UVM is attacking that end and our goalie takes his mask off, sometimes there will be a “SEXY GOALIE” chant.
UVM MISSES GOLDEN CHANCE OR OTHER GOALIE MAKES BIG SAVE (and, occasionally, after an opposing team goal)
“YOU GOT LUCKY”
UVM GOALIE MAKES GOOD SAVE(S)
“WE LOVE (insert tonight’s UVM goalie’s name here)” (so it’s usually “WE LOVE LEKKAS”)
OTHER TEAM CHANGES GOALIE
CATAMOUNTS LEAD BY MULTIPLE GOALS LATE (< 3 min remaining)
“START THE BUSES”
LAST MINUTE OF PLAY IN THE PERIOD
“WE WANT FRIES” (Context: if the Catamounts score in the final minute of a period, all attendees receive free fries. Last year it was from Archie’s Grill in Shelburne, but in previous years it has been McDonald’s.)
And now for chants you’ll hear occasionally throughout the game:
“U V M”
“Go Cats Go”
One or two people: (other goalie’s name shouted in jeering fashion) Everyone else: “SUCKS!”
Sometimes other specialized chants will appear out of nowhere. Usually the crew starting the chant (which is usually, again, section 12) will tell everyone what we’re about to chant so people are aware. Feel free to pitch chant ideas at the game, too! (so long as they aren’t racist, homophobic, or anything of that nature…we can heckle the opposition without being a jerk).
Who are our rivals?
…We don’t really have any rivalries where the hatred is mutual in hockey (as our chief rival in other sports, Albany, does not have varsity hockey). The closest teams to us are Clarkson, St. Lawrence, and Dartmouth, all of whom are in a different conference now (UVM switched from the ECAC to Hockey East in 2004), and thus those rivalries kinda died off as a result. We don’t even play St. Lawrence this year, the first time since 1970/71, and when we do play Dartmouth it is often midweek. (The Clarkson game this year is over winter break, too, which doesn’t help.)
But for most students, it’s Boston University, Boston College, and New Hampshire. BU and BC are both teams we’ve played in high-stakes games in the last 10 years (BU at the ’09 Frozen Four and BC in the ’08 Hockey East championship game), and UVM has a lot of students from Massachusetts so there’s often family bragging rights on the line. As for UNH, they’re the closest Hockey East team to us, and the games between UVM and UNH are often very competitive and bring out a lot of UVM students. Loudest game of the year last year was the UVM/UNH game around Halloween that finished in a 4-4 tie. That said, all three of these teams have rivals they’d put ahead of us (BU and BC with each other plus Northeastern and UNH with Maine).
How can I stay connected with UVM hockey outside of the games?
Social media and the internet, obviously! The UVM team’s twitter is @UVMmhockey, and this blog commentates on games as well at @TheVTHockeyBlog.
While there is no specific subreddit for UVM hockey as its online presence is fairly small, Reddit’s college hockey community is /r/collegehockey. It’s a great community and probably the best place to talk college puck. The USCHO.com fan forum also exists, but that site tends to skew much older than Reddit, and thus I’d recommend Reddit more for students (and we have weekly trash talk threads and nightly game threads on there which are fun).