Meaningful women’s hockey returns to the Gutt this weekend.
The Catamounts open their home slate of games with a tough test – a Hockey East matchup against #9 ranked BU (using the USCHO poll). UVM opened their season on Tuesday with a 5-1 stomping of Union, with Ève-Audrey Picard and MacKenzie MacNeil scoring twice and Taylor Willard once. BU, meanwhile, traveled to Schneider Arena and came out victors 5-2 over Providence on a hat trick by Samantha Sutherland.
BU, picked second in the Hockey East preseason poll, returns just two of their top five scorers from last season, but those two also happened to be 1-2 in team scoring last year in Rebecca Leslie and Victoria Bach. Starting goalie Erin O’Neil also returns, but the Terriers are still a team that’s in a transition period, with 10 players from last season’s Hockey East runners-up having graduated.
In goal, though O’Neil (last year’s starter) returns, it was Victoria Hanson who got the start against Providence. Hanson struggled to a .888 save percentage her junior year, but looked very good against Providence, stopping 34 of 36. If Hanson has improved from her junior year, Brian Durocher will have two goalies who can challenge any foe – a definite asset.
The BU defense is very inexperienced, with only three returners from last season (Connor Galway, Savannah Newton, and Alexis Crossley). That said, what they lack in experience, they make up for in skill. The standout recruit is Breanna Scarpaci, an alum of the famous Shattuck St. Mary’s high school in Minnesota. An inexperienced defense could be something that the more experienced Catamount attack could try to exploit.
Up front, BU features many weapons. Leslie and Bach were dominant forwards last year (both earning selections to the Hockey East All-Star second team), and Sutherland’s hat trick got BU off to a winning start. Sammy Davis had an excellent freshman year (earning a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie team) and will look to build on it for the years to come. Anyone on this team is capable of scoring at any time, and the Vermont blueline and defending will have to be on their toes.
That being said, BU is a team the Cats are familiar with and are not afraid of. Despite the Cats’ struggles last year, they managed to knick a draw off of the Terriers during the regular season (3-3 on January 16), and managed to steal a game during their playoff series at Walter Brown Arena. With another year of experience, and the graduation of a number of BU players, the Cats go in with nothing to lose and nothing to fear. This should be a good one.
Game is Sunday at 2pm on CatamounTV.