Women’s Preview: UVM @ Quinnipiac (2x)

After a strong home opener, UVM women’s hockey now heads on the road for two down in Hamden against Quinnipiac. (Saturday UVM @ QU doubleheader, too, with the women’s game coming right after the men’s!)

The Bobcats are coming off their fifth consecutive 20-win season, going 21-10-6 last season before losing to Princeton in an airtight three-game series in the ECAC tournament. So far this year, they’ve made like a Croatian coastal city and split their first two series (a road series at Maine and a home and home against Providence). Their offense has struggled with just six goals in their 4 games. However, as you’ll see, defense was their MO last year.

Starting at the back, this team had to replace a fairly solid keeper in Sydney Rossman, who graduated after posting a .929 as a senior. Sophomore Abbie Ives backed her up last season with a remarkable .983 (albeit in very limited duty), and has started strong this year with a .947 in the first four games, including a 37 save shutout of a talented Providence team last time out. Her backup is freshman Alison Small, who was shaky in her first start and was subsequently pulled.

The defense sees a mix of youth and experience. Two of their top four from last year have graduated (Taryn Baumgardt and Emma Greco), but the rest return, and are aided by Finnish international Anna Kilponen, a junior who transferred to Q following the shuttering of North Dakota women’s hockey. Junior Kate McKenzie has started strong, while senior Alicia Barry comes off a 10 point junior year and sophomore Kati Tabin has started strong.

The Bobcats did lose some talent up top with the graduation of Emma Woods and Meghan Turner (45 points combined), but a pair of sophomores have come out strong following some freshman struggles. Sarah-Ève Coutu-Godbout posted only 6 points last season and is already halfway to matching that this year while Abby Cleary has already surpassed her freshman point total of 2 (they co-lead the team in scoring at present). Their top two scorers, Taylar Cianfarano and Melissa Samoskevich, both return as well, although the former missed the Providence series.

Games are 7:30 pm on Friday and Saturday. If you’re going to the men’s game Saturday, why not stick around and watch the women? Both will be streamed free on ESPN3.

Go Cats!

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Men’s Preview: UVM @ #17 Quinnipiac, UVM @ Union

We’re going to do both weekend games in one, partially because I feel like it, partially because we’re back in the land of tech issues.

It’s an ECAC road trip this weekend as UVM rematches two teams they played last season. We’ll start first with the Bobcats, who UVM crushed 5-1 in Belfast last year and plays on Saturday afternoon.

It’s safe to say that after the Belfast fail Quinnipiac’s season basically fell apart a year ago. They would go on to lose five of their next seven games and only ended the year ranked after a run to the ECAC semifinals, where they lost to Harvard; they wound up missing the NCAAs for the first time in five years. Both their games this year were at home against Beanpot schools, both went to OT, and neither ended in a Q win (a 1-1 tie against BC and a 3-2 loss to BU).

In goal, the Bobcats have split time their first weekend between sophomore Andrew Shortridge and Red Wings draftee and freshman Keith Petruzzelli. Petruzzelli comes in with some serious hype; at one point last year some rated him higher in the draft than Jake Oettinger. Shortridge meanwhile is the incumbent, posting a solid .920 last season (it was really the backup, graduated senior Chris Truehl, that let them down last year). I’d guess Shortridge starts, but I’m never good at predicting starting goalies, so Petruzzelli will probably start to make me look dumb.

The Bobcats defense looks to be a strong point, with a lot of talent and depth. The name that jumps out to me is Latvian U20 international Kārlis Čukste, who posted 15 points as a freshman and looked good for his nation at the World Juniors. Captain Chase Priskie (26 points), along with Brogan Rafferty (24) and Kevin McKernan (14) also bring offense, while they also added talented Brandon Fortunato (22 points with BU in 2015/16) via transfer, who brings plenty of big-game experience with him.

Forward is where Quinnipiac struggled last year, as their goals per game went from nearly 4 goals per game in 2015/16 to just over 3 last year after early departures and graduations. They do have a lot of key returners, with just 2 of their top 7 forward scorers graduating. They also have a strong newcomer in last year’s AJHL top scorer Matt Forchuk (97 points). They’re stronger there than last season, in my opinion, and it’ll be an early test for a young UVM defense.

Game is 4pm on Saturday and will be on ESPN3 for free!


While Q may have returned a ton of key players, the same cannot be said of the Union Dutchmen. After making the NCAAs last year and promptly getting steamrolled by Penn State, they lost a number of important pieces. And it’s shown in their 0-3-0 start, which included a 6-3 loss at the hands of a Michigan Tech Huskies side with a brand-new head coach.

In goal, last year’s starter was Alex Sakellaropoulos. Luckily for me as a writer I never have to spell that again, as he’s graduated. New starter Jake Kupsky, a junior and San Jose draftee, has shown some promise in his first three games as a #1, including a 39 save effort on opening night against BU. He’s backed up by junior Joe Young and freshman Darion Hanson.

On the blueline this team lost a huge player in Jeff Taylor (33 points) as well as solid contributor Nick DeSimone (19 points). They do have some returning talent (Vas Kolias had 12 points as a freshman, for example), but this team already struggled defensively last season and now they’ve lost their two best.

Up front, the obvious narrative is the graduation of Mike Vecchione and the early departure of Spencer Foo, both of whom posted over 60 points last season. That being said, there’s still plenty of talent here. Sebastian Vidmar had a huge sophomore year with 41 points, and Brett Supinksi added 35. They also added two talented draft picks in Jack Adams, who posted 60 points in the USHL with Fargo, and Foo’s brother Parker, who put up 66 points in the AJHL last year.

But if there’s one thing about Union, it’s that they’re excellently coached. Rick Bennett is a top 10 coach in the college game, especially with the Dutchmen not having as many resources (small rink + less scholarships).

Game is 4pm Sunday and viewing it is stuck behind a paywall.

Recap: UVM (W) 7, Union 0

“It’s an opportunity to get the confidence up and build some momentum after a somewhat shaky first two games.” –Me on this blog, two days ago.

Well, they got the confidence boosted and momentum built. And some history made. In a home opener!

Four goals from Ève-Audrey Picard, the most in a single game since UVM went varsity in 1998 (and first time a UVM woman did it since Jen Brennan scored four in a 17-0 win over BU in January 1995). A seven-goal margin of victory, the largest since Tom Brennan was still coaching UVM men’s basketball.

The Cats opened the scoring late in the first. Picard opens her account in what I like to call a beautiful accident. Looking at it on replay, it looks like she tried to square it to Saana Valkama, but instead it banked off of the skate of Union defender Ava Reynolds past Kate Spooner.

UVM actually seemed to start the second a bit shaky…but when it started raining, it started pouring. And what a way for the downpour to begin. I’m just going to leave the goal gif of Picard’s second here:

giphy (14)

Yeah. I’m still in disbelief that I saw that happen live. What an individual effort. The poke check! The speed through the neutral zone! The sheer patience trying to wait out Spooner! The finish! Everything was just amazing!

Third goal comes about two minutes later on the PK. Alyssa Gorecki gets on a breakaway and finishes high blocker on Spooner. Great release, a 3-0 lead, and that was the night for Kate Spooner as Amelia Murray replaced her.

But that didn’t really change much, as UVM scored just under six minutes later as Picard wrapped up her hat trick. The puck movement was sublime: Gorecki finds Valkama behind the net, who finds Picard in front for the tap in. 4-0. Hat trick. Gutterson has seen 2 hat tricks in 4 days between Picard and Ross Colton’s hatty for the men on Saturday.

Fifth goal comes from Ali O’Leary, who does extremely well to avoid the pressure from Helen Markovic, dangling her way in to beat Murray blocker side.

Early in the third saw UVM’s sixth and Picard’s fourth. Murray stopped the initial backhander, but Sierra Lee attempts a no-look backhanded clearance, not realizing Picard was right there. One corner picked later, it’s 6-0.

Final goal comes about two minutes later. Mackenzie MacNeil tries a wraparound, Murray’s there, but the puck floats to Kristina Shanahan, who scores her first collegiate goal, going high glove side on Murray, who would be replaced by Coco Francis to end the game.

Some thoughts:

  • I don’t think I can say a single player looked anything worse than “good”. But there were a few standouts who looked like world beaters out there. Gorecki and Picard are obvious, but I thought Amanda Drobot played one hell of a game.
  • Shanahan’s backcheck on a Union 2-on-1 (with both defenders caught up the ice) is one of the more underrated plays from this game.
  • GREAT to have Taylor Willard back. This team really missed her. Not only because she’s the team’s #1 defender and has been for some time now, but also because she’s the captain.
  • Union just looked gassed in that third period. The two weekend games plus the travel from Pennsylvania to Vermont just had them knackered by the third. (Trust me, I’ve made the PA -> VT trip so many times that I can relate.)
  • I posted this on Twitter, but the 7 goals UVM scored were the most since February 1, 2015 (a 7-3 win over Providence at Gutterson featuring a Dayna Colang hat trick), and the 7 goal margin of victory was the most since an 8-0 smackdown of Sacred Heart on October 29, 2004.
  • Melissa Black only had to make 10 saves, but she did need help from the post to preserve the shutout – Union had one in the third ring off the pipe that many sitting near me thought had gone in.
  • On to a couple tough games at Quinnipiac this weekend.

Women’s Preview: Union @ UVM

After a big 2-1 W at UConn, the women head back to Gutterson on Tuesday to open the home portion of their schedule against the Union Dutchwomen.

After a winless 2015/16, new head coach Josh Sciba had nowhere to go but up. And the Dutchwomen did improve, posting a 5-28-1 record. They’ve still got a ways to go before being considered a respectable team, but it literally can’t get any worse than that 2015/16 season. They’ve gone winless in their first three, but did show some signs, going up 3-1 against Providence and earning a road draw at Penn State. They will be a bit tired coming up to UVM, having played at University Park this weekend and making the ~8 hour drive north. Vermont has also won all 20 meetings between the two sides.

Goaltending is Union’s strong suit. Each of their 3 goalies has seen some time this year. The incumbent is Kate Spooner, a sophomore who posted a promising .919 behind a bad team last season. Backup Amelia Murphy also returns; she had a shaky 2016/17 (.889 SV%) and stopped 34 of 37 in her first game this year, a 3-1 loss to the Nittany Lions. They’re challenged by newcomer Coco Francis, who looked very good in the 1-1 tie on Saturday, making 27 saves. I have no idea who’s going to start; my gut says Sciba will roll with the hot hand and go with Francis.

The Dutchwomen’s two leading scorers right now are actually defenders. Senior Caitlyn McLaren was their leading blueline scorer last year with 11 points, and has two so far in the young season, while junior Arianna Kosakowski has four (she had six all of last season). Union lacked depth on D last year, with just five defenders playing all season, but this year they have seven, all of whom have played. Two of the freshmen, Megan Ryan and Hannah Schultz, already have their first college points in the bag. They have conceded a ton of shots though, with 115 shots against in 3 games.

Up front is where Union really struggles; their leading scorer (a four-way tie) had 11 points last year; amongst that four-way tie was a graduating senior and a defender. So far, only one of their five goals on the year came through a forward in the form of freshman Helen Markovic. It doesn’t help that sophomore Haley Shugart has yet to play this season. One player to watch is Angelica Melone, a former US development camp invitee (and a former teammate of UVM freshman Val Caldwell at Chicago Mission).

Look, this is D-I college hockey. There’s no such thing as an easy game. But given Union’s recent history, this is a game you have to win. It’s an opportunity to get the confidence up and build some momentum after a somewhat shaky first two games.

Game is Tuesday at 7 at Gutterson, will be on CatamounTV.

Go Cats.

 

RECAP: Colorado College 4, UVM (M) 3

Well, that sucked.

The Cats became the Fighting Coltons and it still wasn’t enough for the W. And to be honest, they can blame no one but themselves, because outside of a couple players, they didn’t look like they cared until the third period.

UVM opened the scoring on the first shot of the game. Rob Darrar sprung Ross Colton with a great pass, and the Lightning draftee buried the breakaway.

CC got the equalizer five minutes later. Remember what I said about Lekkas overcommitting? Well, that’s kind of what happened here. He bit too far on Ben Israel’s cross-ice pass to Trey Bradley, and he left a wide open net for Westin Michaud to tap it home, despite Jake Massie’s best efforts to tie him up.

The Tigers had a goal disallowed in the second but went up 2-1 anyway. Again, Lekkas kind of overcommits, Mason Bergh sends it cross-ice, and Nick Halloran buries it.

Cats tied it up in the third on the power play. Colton with an absolute laser of a shot from the right-hand circle. Bowen with a good screen in front as well.

But then CC gets back-to-back goals 24 seconds apart to go up 4-2. First one’s a bomb by Bradley, who beat a screened Lekkas on the power play (CC’s first PPG of the weekend after eleventy billion chances). Then comes a turnover by Corey Moriarty behind the net, a great pass by Michaud, and a slam dunk for Kade Kehoe.

UVM clawed one back as Colton finished his hat trick 41 seconds later, a one-timer from the left-hand side on a feed from Brian Bowen (good to see him back on the ice, btw). But despite some efforts late (the standout to me was Alex Esposito getting robbed by Alex Leclerc’s glove) and 21 third period shots, CC held on.

Some thoughts:

  • Sneddon didn’t mince words in the postgame, calling the players out for not competing hard. Until the third period the Tigers looked like the much hungrier team and that level of effort is flatly unacceptable. It might get you to beat Waterloo in preseason…but it will get you nowhere in Hockey East.
  • No idea why Evers didn’t play. While I do agree with bleeding Thomas into the team early, I find it hard to believe Evers was the guy who should’ve been scratched. If he picked up a knock…well, fair enough.
  • Speaking of guys who should be scratched… what the heck was Corey Moriarty doing on CC’s winning goal?
  • I’m not a fan of having Misley, a skilled playmaker, with Alvaro and Petruzzelli, who are more grinder types. I like having playmakers playing with other skill guys. Honestly, the simple solution is to flip Misley and Coughlin, putting Bryce with the more skilled Puffer and Cowans/Privitera and the more physical Coughlin with other grinders. But hey, I’m not a D-I coach.
  • Let’s hope like HELL CC overachieves this year. Because otherwise, if UVM barely misses the NCAAs again, you’ll be able to look at this game as a Pairwise bomb. (Luckily, three of the teams they beat last year were tournament teams – Cornell, national runner up Minnesota Duluth, and the North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Speaking of CC, they looked a lot better this weekend than I thought they would. They were hungry, and they had enough skill to earn a split. They were unlucky on Friday.
  • The student section was TERRIBLE last night. I hope it’s just “people going home for the long weekend” and not “the student section is going to be weak this year”…
  • Speaking of Gutterson, can we talk about how bad the new bag policy is?

And now a four-game road trip, with games at Quinnipiac and Union next weekend and Michigan after that. UVM needs to be better.

RECAP: UVM (M) 3, Colorado College 0

It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t as lopsided as the score suggested, but it’s a W nonetheless, as a Brian Bowen-less UVM grabbed a win on opening night.

The Cats got off to a bit of a slow start, and wound up getting a 5 minute major in the first period as Liam Coughlin was given five and a game. But they were able to kill that off, and from there, the momentum shifted in their direction.

In the dying seconds of the first, Colorado College took a pretty silly penalty, and UVM were able to score a power play goal right off the draw just before the period was out. Derek Lodermeier with a clean face-off win, and an absolute snipe from Ross Colton. It’s what we’re used to.

And then the Cats started the second strong with something we’re not used to because it never happened before. Owen Grant, on his debut, takes a shot from the point that beats Alex Leclerc. That “PING” on the shot was satisfying. Great, great look from the rookie who I thought played well.

Final goal comes in the second, just some lovely puck movement on the power play. Bryce Misley set up Christian Evers with a beautiful pass, and Evers one-timed it past Leclerc. The two celebrated their first collegiate points together, Misley with an assist, Evers with the goal.

So with the goal summaries out of the way, some thoughts:

  • Man, did the Tigers beat themselves. That two minute minor while they had a five minute power play killed their momentum and helped build up UVM’s.
  • Props to the PK though, going 7 for 7.
  • Re: Dzhioshvili injury…I heard a rumbling in the stands that it’s a broken foot and he won’t be back until Christmas. Which, man, that sucks if true, as I was hoping for him to play a role this year.
  • Coughlin should be okay to play tomorrow, just a game misconduct, not a DQ.
  • All three freshmen that played tonight pointed. That’s good. Sneddon says some may rotate in tomorrow night.
  • After that BC series – and really much of the second half – good to see Lekkas get a shutout. I do think he has technical stuff to work on (he can overcommit at times and has shoddy rebound control), but a 33 save shutout to start is promising.
  • Looking at the gamesheet, Jake Massie had SEVEN blocked shots. A few were with the net ajar.

The Vermont Hockey Blog Three Stars of the Game

  1. Stefanos Lekkas (UVM) – 33 save shutout, including a few huge breakaway stops.
  2. Ross Colton (UVM) – He did Colton things. AKA be the best player on the ice.
  3. Owen Grant (UVM) – Both new defenders looked good, but I’m giving the edge to Grant.

Where are UVM recruits playing? 2017/18 edition

Goaltenders

Natalie Ferenc (’01) – Michigan Detroit Little Caesars U16 (JWHL)

 

Defenders

Carter Long (’98) – Nebraska Lincoln Stars (USHL)

Andrew Lucas (’99) – Connecticut Loomis Chaffee School (HS)

Andrew Petrillo (’98) – Ohio Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)

Conner Hutchison (’00) – Connecticut Selects Hockey Academy U18 (USPHL U18)

Ellice Murphy (’00) – Minnesota Roseau High (HS)

Cameron Morrissey (’01) – New York (state) Selects Hockey Academy U19

David Paluch (’01) – Connecticut Loomis Chaffee School (HS)

 

Forwards

Nick Abruzzese (’99) – Illinois Chicago Steel (USHL)

Simon Boyko (’99) – Alberta Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

Joey Cipollone (’99) – Nebraska Tri-City Storm (USHL)

Jérémy Côté (’99) – Massachusetts Islanders Hockey Club (NCDC)

Ocean Wiesblatt (’99) – Alberta Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

Lillian Holmes (’99) – Connecticut Mid-Fairfield CT Stars U19

Corrine McCool (’99) – Massachusetts Lawrence Academy (HS)

Maude Poulin-Labelle (’99) – Quebec Stanstead College (CanHS)

Orca Wiesblatt (’00) – Alberta Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

Mickey Burns (’00) – New Jersey New Jersey Hitmen (USPHL U18) & Don Bosco Prep (HS – CAPTAIN)

Riley McCutcheon (’00) – Manitoba Whitby Fury (OJHL)

Alex Gray (’00) – Quebec Stanstead College (CanHS)

Zach Okabe (’01) – Alberta Grande Prairie Storm (AJHL)

Kyle Mandleur (’01) – New Jersey New Jersey Rockets (NCDC) & Mercer Chiefs U16 (AYHL 16U)

Anthony Cipollone (’02) – New York (state) Rye Town/Harrison (HS)

Madelyn Skelton (’02) – Minnesota Jr. Whitecaps White U16

 

Where do UVM alumni play? 2017/18 Edition

GOALTENDERS

Joe Fallon ’08 – Massachusetts Worcester Railers (ECHL)

Madison Litchfield ’17 – Massachusetts Boston Pride (NWHL)

DEFENDERS

Rob Hamilton ’17 – New Hampshire Manchester Monarchs (ECHL) – On trial with Massachusetts Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL)

Ryan Gunderson ’07 – Sweden Brynäs IF (SHL)

Slavomir Tomko ’08 – France Lions de Lyon (Ligue Magnus)

Evan Stoflet ’07 – Romania Corona Brașov (Erste Liga)

Jaime Sifers ’06 – Ontario Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Michael Paliotta ’15 – Ontario Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Patrick Cullity ’10 – Connecticut Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

Nick Luukko ’15 – Pennsylvania Reading Royals (ECHL)

Nick Bruneteau ’14 – Italy Pustertal/Val Pusteria (AlpsHL)

Kevan Miller ’11 – Massachusetts Boston Bruins (NHL)

Alexx Privitera ’16 – Croatia Medveščak Zagreb (EBEL)

Rachael Ade ’17 – Connecticut Connecticut Whale (NWHL)

FORWARDS

Éric Perrin ’97 – Finland TPS Turku (Liiga)

Patrick Sharp ’02 – Illinois Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)

Torrey Mitchell ’07 – Quebec Canadiens de Montréal (NHL)

Colin Vock ’10 – Denmark Esbjerg Energy (Metal Ligaen)

Viktor Stålberg ’09 – Switzerland EV Zug (NLA)

Sebastian Stålberg ’12 – Sweden Frölunda HC (SHL)

Peter Lenes ’09 – Austria Kitzbüheler EC (AlpsHL)

Brian Roloff ’10 – Germany Ravensburg Towerstars (DEL2)

Chris McCarthy ’14 – Pennsylvania Reading Royals (ECHL)

Connor Brickley ’14 – Florida Florida Panthers (NHL)

Mario Puskarich ’17 – Croatia Medveščak Zagreb (EBEL)

Colin Markison ’15 – Texas Texas Stars (AHL)

Brady Shaw ’17 – Texas San Antonio Rampage (AHL)

Amanda Pelkey ’15 – United States United States women’s national team (Centralization)

Chelsea Furlani ’10 – Italy EV Bozen Eagles (EWHL)

Women’s Preview: UVM @ UConn

Well, that first one didn’t go so well; the Cats were outshot, outscored, and outplayed in their season opener. But it’s time to  lick the wounds and move on to Game 2, another WHEA road game, this one against UConn.

Again, since it’s early goings, there’s not really much I can say about the Huskies that I didn’t in their preview. They opened the season with a split out in St. Cloud against the Huskies (…wait), winning the first game 1-0 in overtime but falling 3-2 in the second, throwing away a two-goal lead in the process. Annie Belanger pitched a 31 save shutout in the first game while Morgan Fisher stopped 22 in the second; Natalie Snodgrass and Leah Lum both had two points on the weekend.

Three Things to Look Out For:

  1. The Bounceback. Last year, after games the Cats got blown out, they bounced back strong, never losing the game after they were defeated by three goals or more. Ironically, one of those “bounce-back” games was in Storrs against UConn, a 4-2 win on January 27 after losing 3-0 to BC six days earlier.
  2. A Different Style. This is something Coach Plumer noted in his midweek press conference: UConn plays a much different game than Providence does. Whereas PC is much more of a fast-paced open-ice team, UConn relies a lot on strong defense, good goaltending, shot blocking, and counter attacks.
  3. Crunch Time. As said earlier, UConn was Jekyll and Hyde in their opening weekend in big moments. On Friday, they won in overtime on a Snodgrass goal. On Saturday, they gave up three third-period goals to cough up a 2-0 lead. Will the real Huskies please stand up? (quietly tells Northeastern, St. Cloud, and Michigan Tech to sit down for now)

Game is Saturday at 2. Let’s get some Hockey East points on the board heading into Tuesday’s home opener.

Go Cats.

Men’s Preview: Colorado College @ UVM (2)

UVM fans that were around back then can probably remember what they were doing on the day of March 28, 1996. (I can’t. I was only two months old.)

That afternoon, the Catamounts battled the Colorado College Tigers in Cincinnati, with a spot in the national championship game against either BU or Michigan on the line. This Frozen Four was a logistical nightmare, as an arena worker drilling to set the goal pegs accidentally hit the refrigerating line, causing a coolant leak. The game was played on horrible, watery ice, which killed the Cats’ biggest advantage – the speed of Martin St. Louis and Éric Perrin. Take it from an ex-speed skater: when the ice is the way it was that night, you struggle to really get those powerful strides needed to hit top speed.

And that wasn’t even the biggest controversy. In double overtime, Tigers forward Jay McNeill had his shot saved by UVM goalie Tim Thomas. McNeill whacked the rebound in with his hand, and suddenly CC had won. To this day, UVM fans and players insist that McNeill’s deflection never hit Thomas (instead hitting the post) and thus was a hand pass.

But that was then. Twenty-one years later, the Tigers come to Gutterson for the first time. CC’s program is not what it was back then; they haven’t had a winning season since 2011-12, and haven’t won more than ten games since moving to the NCHC upon the Great NCAA Hockey Realignment in 2013-14. Last year, they went just 8-24-4, with the third-worst scoring offense in the nation as they averaged just 1.94 goals per game. They also struggled for possession, with a CF% of just 45, which was sixth from bottom nationally.

In goal the Tigers have the same setup as UVM – a sophomore that they probably relied on too much as a freshman, plus two freshmen. Alex Leclerc had a .900 save percentage in 32 games in his first year, and will probably start at least the first game. The backup role is a tossup – Alec Calvaruso and Jon Flakne had similar numbers in the NAHL, but Calvaruso was slightly better (a .906 SV% vs a .899), so I’d expect him to be the 2A in goal.

The defense is a huge question mark with their best defender, Teemu Kivihalme (10 points), leaving a year early to play professionally in Finland. No other Tiger posted ten or more points from the blueline last season, but Andrew Farny did post 12 as a freshman. He did slip to just three points last season, so it’ll be interesting to see if that was just a down year or he overperformed as a freshman. That said, Kivihalme was the only departure, so perhaps someone takes a step up, or one of the freshmen (Zach Berzolla and McKay Flanagan) contributes immediately. But there’s reason to be a bit nervy about your blueline if you’re head coach Mike Haviland.

Offense was their Achilles heel last year, and to make matters worse, there’s a lot of loss up front. Three of the team’s top 5 scorers last year graduated, leaving just Mason Bergh (24 points) and Alex Berardinelli (12) as players who had 10+ last season. Both still have at least 2 years left in Colorado Springs, so they have some time to be even better and develop further. Two freshmen did show promise in the BCHL with Wenatchee last season: Troy Conzo (68 points) and Brian Williams (59 points in 49 games). Still, they lost 45 points on a team that scored only 70 goals last season.

There are no easy games in college hockey. But if I’m being honest, this is possibly the most winnable series the Cats will have all year. CC is essentially the Maine of the NCHC (a once-national power that fell on hard times and is basically irrelevant now) and had a few huge losses on a team that was already pretty poor last year. The Cats looked very confident against Waterloo, and if they bring that confidence to these two games that mean something, they should walk away with a pair of W’s to start the year. And let’s be real: this is a couple games that the longtime Vermont faithful really want this program to win, simply for a bit of payback from that controversial night in 1996.

Games are Friday and Saturday at 7 on CatamounTV. Gutterson should be rocking.

Go Cats.