Media Day interview w/ Kevin Sneddon

During media day, I had the privilege of speaking to men’s head coach Kevin Sneddon. This is what he had to say.

On what needed to be worked on to improve the team’s offense (2.15 GPG in 2015/16, T-8th worst in country)

“I think it’s puck possession. In particular, on offensive zone entries and not just panicking with the puck in the offensive zone. Having more interaction with our defensemen and our forwards so we have five people trying to possess and do some things and confuse the other team’s defense. The power play, we’ve got to find a way to click more. It was going pretty good two years ago, it was over 20% which was very good, and last year we got down to 12. Special teams were not a positive last year, so that kind of hurt us. But I think we have the right guys, we just have to be a bit more creative as coaches to put them in the right environment for it.”

On the newcomers

“Very, very excited about our group. I think we have two or three forwards that have really shown well early on. I think Ross Colton is one of the best freshmen in the country, and we’re fortunate to have him at the University of Vermont. Tampa Bay draft pick, I think he’s got a bright future here but also within the NHL. Our defensemen, what we tried to do there was to get a little bit more skill, more agility, guys who could think and make a play. I think all four of those guys can do that, it’s just going to take a little time to get used to college hockey and the speed of the game. They’ve been excellent and I think we have one of the best goaltenders coming in as well, Stefanos Lekkas.”

On the goaltending situation in an optimal scenario

“That really depends. Sometimes going in a rotation is good until you feel someone really earns it. There’s other times where, like at any position, I look at it and say ‘okay, who’s playing the most confident? Who gives us the best chance to win a hockey game?’ while developing them. It doesn’t do a goalie any good to not play in a game for a month. So you’re factoring all of these things in, I don’t know that there is a perfect scenario, I think you have to see what your team has and put it to best use. I rely a lot on Jeff Hill, who’s been our goalie coach, he’s in a different role now as our hockey ops, but he can still have an opinion on who looks the best out there and most confident. So I’ll rely on my staff a lot for that.”

On which returning player has improved the most over the summer

“I think Robbie Darrar. He’s come back confident, he’s stronger, he’s looks even faster this year. He had an unbelievable playoff last year; he was probably our best player in the playoffs, and he’s kinda taken off where he left off.”

On the schedule

“People talk about it because of preseason rankings, and that’s what everyone focuses on. ‘Whoa, you’re playing the #4 team in the country!’ Well, this early on in the season, there could be a team that’s not even ranked that might end up being one of the best teams in the country, and I think we have some of those on our schedule. I think UNO’s going to be great, I think Clarkson’s going to be a great team, obviously Michigan’s always, always good, Northeastern…It’s not any easier this year, I think our team our team’s going to be challenged from Saturday this weekend all the way through to the end of the year.”

On polls/preseason rankings

“I try to fill out the darn poll and I can’t figure it out. Especially in Hockey East. I almost feel like ‘Aw, I’m disrespecting someone here because they’re better than where I’m putting them!’ I think all of coaches kind of  feel that way.  I think what’s great about polls, people always ask me ‘do you not like the polls?’ I don’t pay attention to them, because that’s just taking away from what I need to do to prepare our team, but I think it’s great that we’re talking about it. Polls get people to talk about college hockey.  Preseason polls are awesome because everyone’s focusing on ‘hey, the start of the hockey season,’ and during the season it gets people to continue to talk about things. I’m a big fan of them, I just don’t put a whole lot of stock in them.”

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Men’s Preview: Concordia @ Vermont

Alright, the women are back, now it’s time for the men.

Like the women, the men’s exhibition opponent comes from Montréal, although it is not the McGill Redmen, but rather the Concordia Stingers.

Concordia, who finished last season with a record of 10-12-6 (7th in t.he OUA East Division), doesn’t appear to have an updated roster (despite this being their fourth game of the season), so I’m gonna have to play it by ear using their roster from last year and the ever-reliable EliteProspects.

What they do have, however, is a lot of QMJHL experience. Newcomer goalie Philippe Cadorette led the QMJHL in save percentage in 2013/14 as a member of Baie-Comeau, and was a member of the QMJHL All-Star team twice. The Cats, who struggled offensively last season, have themselves a test early on.

On defense, the Stingers add one of Cadorette’s Drakkar teammates in Mathieu Desautels, who posted 72 points from defense in two seasons with the team. The familiarity between a goalie and a defender can be criminally underrated, and Desautels adds much-needed scoring from the blueline (Concordia’s leading defensive scorer last season had just 8 points) as well.

Up front, they return leading scorer Olivier Hinse. Hinse has been terrific in his Concordia career, posting 111 points in 110 games and wearing the C this season. Their second leading scorer, Jessyko Bernard, did not return; he has joined Albatros de Brest in the French second division. Their third leading scorer, who returns, has a very familiar name to any hockey fan: Frédérick Roy is the youngest son of NHL legend Patrick.

With a tough away game at Clarkson to open the season, Coach Sneddon will look to find chemistry and cohesion in this game, in addition to a team identity, more than victory (although victory would be nice!) During media day, he admitted to tinkering too much early season last year. He doesn’t want to make that same mistake twice.

Women’s: Interviews with Ali O’Leary and Sydney Scobee

We’ll have more from Media Day as well as our men vs. Concordia preview coming soon, but in the meantime I got to chat with two of UVM’s women’s newcomers for a Cynic piece. Here’s what they had to say.

O’LEARY

Why UVM

“I chose UVM because I came here and visited and loved the campus. And I’m from Boston, so I liked the distance between home and here.”

On winning a state championship and how it prepared her for NCAA

“It definitely helped, like playing in front of the whole school in the state championship. Just having that experience, and the pressure on you, really helps.”

On her relationship with ex-Boston Shamrocks players at UVM [Rachael Ade & Madi Litchfield] and how it’s helped her transition

“We definitely all talked about our old coaches and teammates that we both know, and that’s just something we can talk about. I was definitely able to talk to them before I got here and they taught me the differences between the Shamrocks and UVM.”

Style of Play

“I play confidently and aggressive and I try to play smart, knowing the systems that we use.”

Goals

“Just to continue to stay confident and take criticism well from the coach and other players.”

On winning Miss Hockey in Massachusetts

“It definitely boosted my confidence even more, and it was good to be honored in that way.”

SCOBEE

Why UVM

“I chose UVM partly because I wanted to go on the East coast, and I really liked the school campus and thought I would fit in best here.”

Style of play

“I think I play pretty confidently…I think I play very athletically; I think I play big a lot, I use my size to my advantage, and I think that really helps me a lot.”

Biggest adjustment from high school hockey

“I think the pace is a definitely little bit more fast. I think that’s probably the biggest adjustment. Everyone’s at the same level; there’s nobody that you can see a big difference in plays-wise.”

Goals

“Probably just to stay positive throughout the whole experience. I don’t know what’s going to happen throughout the year, but I think just to be in control of things I can control would be big for me.”

On winning a high school tournament championship [the Walser Invitational, hosted by Edina] and how it helps her prepare for college hockey

“It’s definitely nerve-wracking being in that position of being in the championship. But I think it taught me to stay composed and I think it’s helped me become who I am today from all those experiences.”

On competing for time with veteran goalies

“It’s definitely a positive because you can learn a lot of new things from them. You always have to try your hardest, because if you don’t, it’s not going to work out. I think we all push each other and I think it’s good for us.”

Men’s: Catamounts tabbed 8th in coaches’ poll

The Hockey East coaches’ poll is finally out, and if they are psychics with a 100% accuracy rating, the Cats will finish 8th in the conference.

The Catamounts received 57 points in the poll, 6 points behind 7th place UConn and 4 ahead of 9th place Merrimack.

The poll drops off considerably after 6th place BC, with 28 points separating them and UConn. The big 6 in Hockey East this year is a murderer’s row, as seen by the fact that five Hockey East teams are in the top 10 of the first USCHO poll (with Northeastern at #15).

I think the Cats can leapfrog UConn and then you never know in the tournament, but anyone penciling them in for top 5 in HEA in the regular season is kidding themselves. The big 6 are just too good.

Preseason preview coming this week.

Recap: McGill 3, UVM (W) 2 (OT)

Third time’s the charm, eh? EH?! Well…it wasn’t for the Catamount ladies out there. Three years, three L’s taken against McGill.

And this time, the Cats were arguably the better team. They absolutely dominated the second period with opportunistic goals by Gorecki (a three-on-two shortly after the period began) and Campeau (a rebound from an O’Neill point shot on the PP) on the edge of the crease. But then, some costly penalties came into play; McGill pulled two back from power play goals, then scored the OT winner less than 20 seconds after an Andreakos penalty expired. The Cats had some chances to win the game late on the power play, or put it out of reach during the third when Allie Granato had a breakaway try stopped by Tricia Deguire, who was sensational for the Martlets (35 SV).

Now, in fairness, the result doesn’t really represent anything other than that they’ve had some more game time out there. For the Cats, this was our first game scenario of the year; for McGill, it was their sixth game (losses to UBC, U of Calgary, Mount Royal, and the CWHL’s Les Canadiennes, and a win the night before this down in Canton against the SLUzers). In preseason, fitness and cohesion are much more important (even Coach Plumer admits this), and the team did look very good in the latter department, especially in the second. The Gorecki-Baker-Campeau line in particular looked real good, and the team in general had the ideas. Just need to get the execution down.

Union is next, on October 4. The Dutchwomen were flat-out awful last year, which means this could be an opportunity to build confidence.

The Vermont Hockey Blog Three Stars of the Game

1. Tricia Deguire (McGill) – Deguire, a first year from Sherbrooke, Que., was absolutely sensational. A night after stopping 34 to shut out St. Lawrence, she stopped 35 against the Catamounts, keeping her team in the game.

2. Melodie Daoust (McGill) – Sure, all her points were secondary assists, but she was all over the ice and nearly had a goal herself with some great moves. A top-class player.

3. Cassidy Campeau (UVM) – A lovely pass to Gorecki for the first goal, then pounced on a rebound for the second.  As stated earlier, her line was the best on the ice.

 

Women’s: Catamounts tabbed fifth in coaches’ poll

The Hockey East women’s preseason poll has been released, and if the coaches are channeling their inner Nostradamus, the Cats will be fighting with New Hampshire for fifth for the second straight year.

Receiving 45 points in the poll, the Catamounts were tied with the Wildcats with 45 points for fifth, 11 points behind fourth-placed UConn and 3 ahead of seventh-placed Providence.

To the surprise of nobody, Boston College was ranked #1, and their noisy neighbors of BU and Northeastern followed. Those three were the only to receive first-place votes.

Last year, the polls touted the Catamounts for 7th in Hockey East, and they finished sixth. Can they out-do their poll numbers and sneak into home ice in the playoffs? Who knows. Only time will tell.

Women’s Preview: McGill @ Vermont

Hockey is back at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

On Sunday afternoon, the Lady Cats host McGill University from Montreal for their preseason tune-up in Burlington. This is the third season in a row the Martlets visit the Gutt; they hammered the Cats 4-0 in 2014/15 and edged them 2-1 last season.

The Martlets went 13-5-2 in CIS regular season play last year, second in the RSEQ. They also finished second in the RSEQ to the playoffs, once again to the Montreal Carabins, who would eventually win the CIS title (McGill went down in the quarters to the UBC Thunderbirds).

McGill returns each of their four leading scorers from last year, most notably Melodie Daoust. The 2014 Olympian posted 53 points in 33 games last year (including exhibitions), and this is her last season at the university (CIS players get 5 years as opposed to NCAA’s 4). However, what they *didn’t* return is either of their top two goalies, Taylor Hough (26 GP) and Kayla Loberg (9 GP). Brittany Smrke struggled last year in her few shots; the fourth-year will need a bounceback.

For the Cats, this will be a first look at freshman forwards Allie Granato (niece of former US Olympian Cammi Granato), Ali O’Leary, and the most interesting one, Eve-Audrey Picard. The Cats struggled for goals last year, tying for the 6th lowest goals per game average in NCAA women’s hockey last season; we’ll see if one of these can help fill in offensively, especially with leading scorer Dayna Colang (28 points) graduating.

We could see one of two new goalies, Melissa Black or Sydney Scobee. Black transferred from Union after her freshman year, where she was rather solid (posting a .931 save percentage), the only bright spot on a team that went 0-28-6. That is not a typo. Scobee, on the other hand, was one of the best high school seniors in Minnesota high school girls’ hockey, and absolutely stole the state championship game (stopping 40 against Grand Rapids). We’ll see which one Jim Plumer sees as the backup to Madi Litchfield, who’s heading into her final season.

Given that this McGill team is similar to last year’s, UVM could use this as a gauge. How much has this team improved from last season? We’ve got the question. We’ll see the answer Sunday.

Alumni News: Alexx Privitera joins Manchester Monarchs

As the title would suggest, Alexx Privitera has become the first member of UVM’s Class of 2016 to sign somewhere, as he joins the ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs on a one-year deal.

Alexx spent just two years at UVM, transferring from Boston University after his sophomore year. He posted 42 points in 2 seasons and wore the “A”.

The ECHL or a similar European league like Norway or Denmark fits his level well, especially if he heads overseas where his 5’11” frame won’t be as much of an issue.

Previews of UVM’s preseason games to come later this week.

Interviews: Jake Massie, Stefanos Lekkas, and Ross Colton

I was writing a Meet the Freshmen piece for the Vermont Cynic and got to speak with arguably Sneddon’s top 3 recruits this year. Here’s what they had to say.

MASSIE

On changing his commitment from UMass & choosing UVM

“The original coaches I was with at UMass ended up getting let go, and the new coaches didn’t see a fit for me. So I decided to take on UVM, because I originally was going to go here and I just came back to my roots.”

Goals and expectations

“I just wanna get some minutes. I’m just coming in as a freshman, so obviously I’m trying to take my place and crack the lineup and hopefully get some minutes in.”

Relationship with fellow Blackhawks prospect Liam Coughlin

“I’ve gotten to know him pretty well. He’s a really good guy. I didn’t really talk to him too much at [Blackhawks development] camp, but it’s good to get to know him now, and I’ll have some friends when I get back to Chicago.”

Toughest part of transitioning from USHL to NCAA

“I’d have to say the speed. Obviously all the players in the USHL are very good and very talented, but it’s more of the speed and size that really catches you off guard. We’re just practicing out – trying out – and I’ve already seen a difference in speed so I’ve gotta catch up with that.”

On summer schedule

“Just training hard every day. Five days a week. On the ice, off the ice, just trying to get better.”

Style of play

“I’d say that originally I was an offensive defenseman, but given the speed and size difference I have with these guys I’m trying to play more of a defensive game and obviously that’s what Chicago has told me to do and I’m gonna try to play that way.”

On the trade that sent him and Dennis Robertson, along with a draft pick, to Chicago for Kris Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom, and a draft pick

“I would say it’s got a little chip on my shoulder, but I’m very happy to be in Chicago. It’s obviously a great organization, and I’m really hoping to one day make a difference on their team.”

LEKKAS

Why UVM

“I feel like Hockey East is the most competitive conference in Division I hockey and UVM was a really attractive school to me. Just the history of the program and consistency of the program made me want to come here.”

On competing with two seniors for playing time as a freshman

“I feel like we’re all on the same page right now. A lot of it’s more of the bigger picture than individually, and we know whoever plays isn’t really up to us. So all we can do is put in the hours during the week and be ready when called upon.

On playing in pressure situations in the Clark Cup; does it help prepare you for a higher level?

“Yeah, absolutely. That year helped my game a lot and into last year as well as our team made another playoff run. But those situations kinda get you ready to play big games,  you learn to play your best hockey when it’s needed, and you learn how to win must-win games.

Toughest part of USHL → NCAA transition

“The USHL is a very fast-paced league; the speed is very similar, and a lot of the other hockey elements. But one thing I’ve noticed in college is players are more mature. They do a lot better job of hiding their shots and putting pucks in better spots. The shots are a lot tougher. I can definitely say there are more guys picking corners than before.”

Expectations & goals

“Just work my hardest and get into games and play well. I’m not a big believer in setting goals before the season, I feel like it’s more of a day-to-day process. I have a pretty good idea of what I can do this year, and it all just depends on getting some right bounces, and getting into games and getting wins.”

Summer schedule

“This summer we were here for six weeks, pretty much our whole team was skating and getting workouts in. This summer I was able to skate a lot; the previous summer I wasn’t able to skate (I had surgery on my shoulder), so this summer I was able to build more than I did prior and kinda get ready and more in shape for this year.”

On compensating for his lack of size

“Being a small guy you have to rely a lot more on your quickness. Quickness is an overused word in goaltending; it’s more of a being fast to be in position. Position is everything, and if I’m in a good spot facing a shot it doesn’t matter if I’m 6’4” or 5’10”, there’s the same amount of room. It’s about moving from a to b fast, and having a high compete level.”

COLTON

On doubling his point total in the USHL (33 to 66)

“I’d say I played with a lot more confidence, played in a different role, became a leader on the team – was captain – and the coach just had a lot more confidence in me. I was a first line guy and out there in different situations and the guys I played with made me a better player, so I give a lot of credit to them.”

On representing the USA at the World Junior A Challenge – winning bronze

“It was definitely a great experience and a great honor as well. We didn’t come with the result we wanted but it was definitely a great experience and I met a lot of good guys and good competition along the way.”

On play style

“I’d say I’m an offensive two-way forward, I can play in both zones, I can win key faceoffs. I like to play a fast game and make the guys around me a better player.”

On transition from USHL → NCAA

“Guys are bigger, faster, stronger, they’re older guys, they’re not going to be younger whereas you’re playing against younger guys in the USHL. I’d say just, you’re working out all year, whereas USHL it’s a little bit more games. Not playing as many games, you’re in the weight room more often, guys are stronger and more mature. I definitely say speed has been a factor so far.”

Summer schedule

“We’re in the gym almost every day, doing conditioning stuff and on the ice. Two-a-days, pretty much, for the entire six weeks this summer and then transitioning into the first couple weeks we’ve been here. The coaches are just starting to get on the ice, so it’s been tough so far but I think everyone’s managing it pretty well.”

On being drafted + process

“It’s definitely been a long process because this was my last year of eligibility. It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, and I worked really hard of it. Last year was a really big year for me, and my coach always had confidence in me, and knew what I was capable of, and he helped me a lot, putting me in the right spots, and when my name got called it was surreal, it’s really just starting to hit me and sink in. I was with my family and a couple of my friends when my name got called, and my mom started crying/tearing up and I did a little too.”