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.