Recap: #15 UVM (M) 3, Merrimack 1

…I should’ve said at some point earlier this year, “if there’s a non-break home game and I didn’t recap it, check the upcoming Cynic.” Seriously, I’ve recapped more than a few series there, and figured writing the same piece, just with more analysis and personality, would be more trouble than it’s worth.

Anywho…outside of the first 10 minutes of the first, probably the most complete game UVM’s played in a while. And Mack isn’t a bad team, coming in after 7 unbeaten.

First goal by Colton…dude absolutely embarrasses a defender, then rips one top shelf on the PP. The UVM PP, which had been struggling, had two goals last night, but also had one of the worst five minute power plays I’ve ever seen. Like, Niagara-would’ve-scored-a-shorty-against-it level bad.

Second period, second goal, another one on the PP. Puskarich from the slot, and the red-hot Bowen tips it home. Bowen, much like Will Grigg, is on fire. (Reference, if you didn’t watch the Euros.)

UVM take two penalties right at the end of the second, and Mack cashes in on the PP early on in the third. Lekkas goes down, and Sami Tavernier stuffs it. Tie game, they’re still on the PP, and we’re getting nervous. (Luckily, they don’t make anything of the second half.) Side note, what is it with Merrimack and French players? First Da Costa and now Tavernier.

But UVM gets the insurance goal, although it may have cost them Jarrid Privitera. Original shot by O’Donnell hit Privitera (who was down for a while), Puffer able to stuff home the rebound. Cats absolutely DOMINATED that third, probably the best period I’ve seen from them all season.

Some thoughts:

  • Said it on Twitter and I’ll say it again: I love games with no white jerseys. I want UVM to either bring back those cream-colored throwbacks from 13/14, or the gold jerseys from last year. Use those as the lights and the current alts as the darks. Wham. Best jersey combo in Hockey East.
  • Stefanos Lekkas had what I thought was his best game in months. I don’t think he’ll start tonight, seeing as it’s senior night, but I’d like more of that Lekkas than the Lekkas we got the last couple of weeks.
  • Tonight’s game will be interesting, these teams did not like each other. One of the chippiest games of the year for sure.
  • Glad to see Muscoby back on his feet after that awful hit by LeBlanc. On the other hand, hope Colton’s okay, he came off early with a wrist injury
  • Win ensures we’ll face either UMass or Maine in Round 1. Most likely Maine, since UMass would have to beat Providence which LOL NOT HAPPENING

The Vermont Hockey Blog Three Stars of the Game

  1. Brian Bowen (UVM) – An assist and a goal, his form is white-hot right now.
  2. Stefanos Lekkas (UVM) – His best game at least since the Belfast series. More of this, please.
  3. Ross Colton (UVM) – If only for how badly that defender got burned on his goal.



Men’s Hockey: A Tribute to the Seniors

It’s Senior Day this afternoon at Gutterson, as we celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s senior class.

This year’s class was something special. As it stands, they have the fourth-most wins of any senior class ever (tied with the class of 2009), and if they win tonight, they will go up to a tie for third with the class of 1989.

Let’s recognize those playing their last regular season games at Gutterson today.

#1 – Goaltender – Mike Santaguida

Career Statistics: 71 GP, 27-30-6, 2.42 GAA, .915 SV%, 5 SO

I have a love-hate relationship with Santa. On one end, he’s a good goalie on his day, and for a bit early this season he was UVM’s all time leader in save percentage. On the other, he was constantly injured the last two years, making us rely on freshmen to lead the way. But he made up for his lack of size with solid positioning, and he’s one of the better puckhandling goaltenders I’ve seen. Well, other than the gaffe at Clarkson home this year.

#5 – Defender – Rob Hamilton

Career Statistics: 114 GP, 9-28-37, 88 PIM

At the start of the season, when UVM cut Jacob Kearley and Mitch Ferguson, I saw a rumor (not sure how credible, though) that it was Hamilton who was meant to be cut instead of Ferguson, and that he was going to be cut after last season. But, according to the rumor, Hamilton asked Sneddon for a second chance, got it, and proved his worth. Brian Bowen is probably this  year’s most improved player, but Rob is a very close second. 15 points from D this season, including two goals in that comeback win at BC.

#7 – Forward – Tom Forgione

Career Statistics: 68 GP, 9-11-20, 36 PIM

Ah yes. The man I refer to as Truculence Tom is one of the most beloved players on this team. He’s a Vermont native, and he provides so much energy and can come up with big goals, such as his game-winner against BU in December. His reckless style of play did lead to injuries. After playing 33 games in his first season, he then was limited to just 35 in the three years since.

#20 – Forward – Brendan Bradley (C)

Career Statistics: 142 GP, 29-51-80, 66 PIM

When talking about this year’s senior captains, we cannot deny that the hazing scandal happened. I just wanted to make it known now that I’m still not happy with that, but it’s in the past now and everyone seems to have learned from it. Back to the on-ice accomplishments, Bradley’s been one of the better two-way forwards to come out of UVM in recent years. Good for about 20 points a year and PK minutes.

#21 – Forward – Mario Puskarich (C)

Career Statistics: 133 GP, 50-60-110, 44 PIM

The first Cat to hit 50 goals since the St. Louis/Perrin days, Puskarich was Hockey East ROTY his freshman year, and scored the goal at UMass Lowell that basically put UVM in the national tournament. After that year, though, he had two struggles. One was injuries, as seen his sophomore year where he missed the stretch run and Hockey East Tournament with a wrist injury. The second was finding a linemate to work with, the way he clicked with Chris McCarthy his first year. He finally seems to have found them in Ross Colton and Brian Bowen.

#22 – Forward – Brady Shaw

Career Statistics: 137 GP, 36-37-73, 126 PIM

Shaw brought size to the Catamounts’ forward line; at 6’1 he was the biggest skater in this year’s senior class. He absolutely balled out his sophomore year, scoring 19 goals, but has struggled to recapture his form. Nevertheless, his size and physicality has made him a valuable asset to the team, even if he’s not going to be the goal scorer that he was in year two.

#24 – Defense – Chris Muscoby

Career Statistics: 74 GP, 5-12-17, 52 PIM

First of all, good to see Muscoby recover from that brutal hit from LeBlanc last night. Second off…the former Brooks Bandit has been in and out of the lineup throughout his career, but has provided steady defense when he’s in. He’s small for a defender, very small at 5’8, but has been able to compensate with his ability to read the game.

#29 – Forward – Malcolm McKinney

Career Statistics: 28 GP, 5-1-6, 17 PIM

I completely forgot this little ball of energy is still on the team. He hasn’t played at all this year, and only played 8 games last year. He was solid his sophomore year though with 5 points in 16 games (including two goals in the 11-1 annihilation at UMass) and just being a little wasp out on the ice. Think Tracer from Overwatch, but a hockey player.

#30 – Goaltender – Pat Feeley

Career Statistics: 2 GP, 0-1-0, 6.28 GAA, .917 SV%

Standing the size of an NBA small forward (6’7), Feeley barely played – his NCAA games amount to three minutes against BU last season (after Santaguida went down with an injury) and six minutes against Bentley in a blowout this year. But by all accounts, he’s been excellent in the room.

Thank you to these players for all you’ve contributed. An NCAA tournament berth and a trip to the Garden in 2015 were both awesome. Here’s to getting both this year. Finish strong.

Interview: Sammy Kolowrat

The following interview was conducted by the blogger for a piece that will be published in the March 1 edition of the Vermont Cynic. Given that the piece was about Olympic qualifiers, the questions reflect this.

TVHB: What was the travel schedule like, how much jet lag was there, and how much did it affect your game in Switzerland and then last weekend against Merrimack?

SK: My travel schedule was an absolute nightmare, to be completely honest. On the way there, my original plan was to go from Burlington to Washington-Dulles to Zurich. However, upon my arrival to Burlington, they said the flight to Washington was delayed so I wasn’t going to make my connection. I ended up taking a shuttle to Boston and flying from there.  On the way back, my flight from Newark to Burlington was cancelled so I flew to Manchester, NH the next day and had one of my coaches pick me up. The jet lag going to Europe is always worse than coming back to the States, so for the first few days I would pass out at like 8pm and wake up really early. Not to mention we were on top of a mountain so that altitude was a bit of an adjustment. After about 3 days, I was fine though.

TVHB: Though your side didn’t qualify to the Olympics this time, the team’s average age was just over 21 years old. Did this lack of experience show in the side, and is 2022 really the “target year” to qualify?

SK: Honestly, at the time I thought this year was the year for us to make it. We’ve always had the youngest team in the World Championships, which has been both a good and bad thing. I really thought our team was in our prime, with our recent successes. Looking back on it though, we definitely lacked experience and coaching. It’s just hard to think that I will have to wait another two years after I graduate to try again. I’m still debating whether I will wait it out or not, but we’ll see.

TVHB: As someone who’s come through the system in recent years, how much is women’s hockey growing in the Czech Republic?

SK: When I first started, I was the only girl on an all boys team because there weren’t any girls teams I could even play on. I grew up playing on boys teams until I was 18. The culture back home is still one where people say to me “You play hockey? Hockey isn’t for girls, you must be kidding.” I was always on the National Team with the same group of girls because there weren’t a lot of girls to even choose from. Now, there are a lot of young girls making appearances on the National Team and there are more and more girls starting to play. Even though there isn’t a very strong or successful women’s league in the Czech Republic, girls are realizing that they can play and have a future playing hockey in different countries like America, Sweden and Russia.

TVHB: You were named the best defender of the tournament. What does this mean to you, and how much does it boost your confidence?

SK: I was honestly shocked when they announced my name, but of course I was really happy. I just went out there and played as well as I could to give my team the best chance to succeed. Even though we didn’t make it this time, the award kind of validates that I did everything in my power and couldn’t have done something more on an individual level to get us there.

TVHB: You come from one pressure-cooker environment (Olympic qualifiers) to another (Hockey East playoffs). How much does this experience at playing big games for country help you when you come back to your college team?

SK: I think that the Olympic qualifiers gave me an opportunity to really test myself in managing stress and anxiety in high pressure situations. Going into the playoffs this weekend, I’ll try and get into that same mindset, because right now these games are the most important ones to not only me as an individual but to our whole team.

Men’s Preview: Merrimack @ #15 UVM

It’s the final weekend of the regular season. Feels like only yesterday when we opened the preseason with a match against Concordia.

The Cats need a bloody miracle to get a first round bye. And since it requires UMass getting a point – much less against Providence – it’s not happening. So the Cats’ focus this weekend is twofold:

  1. Avoid defeat and move up in the Pairwise. Hopefully get some outside help.
  2. Ensure a first-round playoff series against UMass or Maine

That being said…this week’s opponent isn’t easy, and is key in that “UMass-or-Maine-pls” chase as they sit just two back of UVM.

Merrimack have had a ball this year with trolling good teams, scoring defeats of BC, BU, Providence, Notre Dame, and Cornell. They haven’t lost in over a month. This is a team in-form, and the perfect pre-tournament test. (Of course, these also mask the fact that they lost to UMass. At home.)

The goaltending has been a battle all year between sophomore Drew Vogler and junior Collin Delia. Vogler has played more, but Delia has been vastly superior (a .928 SV% compared to Vogler’s .897). Look for the junior to get the bulk of the work this weekend.

On defense, Mack is pretty average. They’re a positive possession team, and rank 6th in Hockey East in goals against average in conference play. Johnathan Kovacevic (16 points), Jared Kolquist (11), and Alex Carle (10) contribute offensively. One weakness UVM can exploit is the Warriors’ shoddy PK, which is the second-worst in Hockey East, behind only UMass. UVM’s PP is HEA’s second-worst, so this could be a chance to get it going ahead of the conference tournament.

Merrimack’s attack is less than optimal in HEA play on the season – they’re 9th – but it has been in excellent form of late. They’re averaging 3.1 goals per game over their last 10 games, including a 6 goal explosion to beat BC at Conte. Leading the way is playmaker Brett Seney (19 assists), who generates plenty of chances that Hampus Gustafsson (14 goals) can finish.

Games are Friday and Saturday on CatamounTV.

Special piece on the seniors out Saturday.

Go Cats.

Women’s Hockey: A Tribute to the Seniors

It’s Senior Day this afternoon at Gutterson, as we celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s senior class.

This year’s class was really Coach Plumer’s first, joining the program in his second season. These players tasted success in their freshman season,  and have played key leadership roles in this year’s success. Some have even made history.

Let’s recognize those playing their last regular season games at Gutterson today.

#5 – Forward – Casey Leveillee

Career Statistics: 132 GP, 7-16-23

Leveillee isn’t much of a scorer, but she makes up for it by being a key part of defensive situations and penalty killing. When she scored, it was often big (the goal clinching home-ice in the playoffs her freshman year, UVM’s lone shorty in 2014-15).

#7 – Defender – Rachael Ade (C)

Career Statistics: 138 GP, 11-21-32

2. That is the amount of games Rachael Ade has missed in her career (both against UConn in her freshman year). Wearing the “C” as senior, Ade has led by example, posting career highs in goals (7, more than she had her first three seasons combined), assists (7), and points (14).

#16 – Forward – Bridget Baker

Career Statistics: 133 GP, 28-27-55

Baker, like Leveillee, is a staple of UVM women’s hockey in defensive situations; however, the daughter of former Shark Jamie Baker has a bit more offensive teeth to her. One highlight was her hat trick earlier this year against St. Cloud State at the Windjammer Classic.

#18 – Forward – Cassidy Campeau

Career Statistics: 137 GP, 9-13-22

The trend of defensive stalwarts up top continues, as Campeau has been yet another key penalty killer. Offensively, Campeau has had a fantastic senior year, posting as many points as a senior as her first three seasons combined.

#22 – Forward – Sarah Kelly (C)

Career Statistics: 139 GP, 9-10-19

Starting to sound like a broken record here, as we’ve got yet another forward who’s been excellent defensively throughout her career. Her leadership on and off the ice this year has been first-class, and is a huge part of why UVM has found success this year.

#30 – Goaltender – Madison Litchfield

Career Statistics: 86 GP, 30-39-12, 2.82 GAA, .902 SV%, 4 SO

It’s great that a local has made history for this program. Litchfield set a women’s hockey program record for wins earlier this year, and has drastically improved from when she first came to campus – her current .933 save % on her senior year is 7th in the country among qualifying goalies. She makes up for her lack of size (listed at 5’4) with solid positioning and composure.

#44 – Forward – Victoria Andreakos

Career Statistics: 136 GP, 29-36-65

Andreakos had a sensational freshman campaign, setting program marks for goals (11), assists (16), and points (27) as a rookie. Her goal mark has since been broken (Ève-Audrey Picard scored goal #12 last night), and she’s never been quite able to reproduce that season. Nonetheless, Andreakos has been a fine player who could score big goals when it mattered, including in the 2014 Hockey East first round.

Thank you to these players for what you’ve contributed on the ice, as well as the improvement in the team’s culture. You have helped bring UVM two of its best seasons of all-time, helped turn the program from a Hockey East cellar dweller into a very competitive team, and lent a solid guiding hand to the newcomers. Thanks in part to you, the future of UVM women’s hockey is in good hands.

Men’s Preview: #16 UVM @ #11 BC

After a disappointing split with UNH, the Catamounts head down to Conte Forum to battle Not-Actually-In-Boston College. Simply put…these two are must win.

BC currently occupies a tie for 13th in the Pairwise. AKA the likely last spot in the NCAA tournament. UVM is two notches back in 16th. Also, these are key points in the Hockey East playoff chase, though it looks as though UVM is safe in 6th (but could move up with two good weekends to close the season + some help elsewhere).

BC currently top Hockey East with 27 points, although you’d be forgiven for forgetting they were; they haven’t been anything special this year. They’re 18-12-2 and have lost three straight, including 6-3 to Merrimack at Conte Forum and losing the Beanpot third place game to two last minute Northeastern goals. They were lucky to play Providence when they were slumping, they got swept by archrivals BU, and they have yet to play Lowell. The Eagles, basically, have been feasting on the weak of Hockey East.

In goal is World Junior Champion Joseph Woll. Woll has definitely been a step down from the incredible level Thatcher Demko was at, posting a .915 save percentage this year, and hasn’t produced a single shutout. Backup Ryan Edquist has been better in his limited minutes, posting a .923.

As pointed out by a recent article by SB Nation’s Jeff Cox, which I will link here, BC’s biggest issue has been defense. Casey Fitzgerald leads the group with 20 points, but his positioning can be shaky. Scott Savage is close behind with 19, and has probably been one of their more reliable defenders. Michael Kim has also been solid this year. But this is a group prone to mistakes, something the Cats can exploit this weekend – and that Merrimack and Northeastern exploited last weekend. Despite all these issues, they’re still a top 20 defensive team in the nation.

The attack is BC’s calling card, and the most potent in Hockey East play with 67 goals for. Matt Gaudreau, the brother of Johnny, leads the way with 28 points, while World Junior champion Colin White and Austin Cangelosi are both on 26. Ryan Fitzgerald, David Cotton, and Christopher Brown form solid backup as well; each has more than 20 points. UVM’s slumping defense is going to have to get it together or else it’s going to be a long weekend.

The Cats have had success at Conte Forum the last two years, but Brody Hoffman and Packy Munson are no longer here to steal games. Lekkas (and maybe Santaguida, I don’t know his injury status) is going to have to step up big time.

Games are Friday and Saturday at 7pm and OH COME ON BC MAKES YOU PAY. Catch up with the 2010s, will you, Eagles?

Go Cats.

Men’s Preview: UNH @ #15 UVM

Okay, well, last week wasn’t so great. Hopefully some home cooking will clean up this mess.

So, it’s a visit from the twin state rivals. UNH has…not been very good this year. They’ve seen a slight uptick – they’ve equalled last year’s 11 wins – but this is still a far cry from the team that reached the 2015 Hockey East semis, as some of their Ls include embarrassing home defeats to Bentley, Arizona State, and Colorado College. The Wildcats have been okay in Hockey East play, sitting three points behind UVM (who has dropped to 6th but has games in hand on Providence and Lowell), but have lost 5 straight, haven’t won in 7 HEA games, and are coming off a 8-2 shellacking at the hands of UMass Lowell.

You can’t really blame UNH’s faults on goalkeeper Dan Tirone, who for his part has been okay, nothing special. He currently rocks a .913 save percentage. His backup’s only played 133 minutes, so we’re not gonna waste characters on him.

The defense is UNH’s problem area. They have the third most shot attempts against in Hockey East (ahead of only Maine and UConn), and Matias Cleland (28 points) aside, they’re getting no offensive contribution back there. Second on the team in defensive scoring is Dylan Maller, who’s missed most of the year with injury, then nobody else has 10. This team gives up about as many goals per game as Northeastern and Dartmouth, both teams UVM have defeated this year, so make of that what you will.

That being said, even though UNH isn’t the best offensive team (they’re four notches behind UVM in goals-per-game), they have one of the best scoring threats in the nation. Tyler Kelleher is an absolute monster, and is tied for second in the nation in scoring with 47 points, just one behind Union’s Mike Vecchione. The Wildcats also have a terrific power play that sits ninth in the country. The Catamount defense has been pretty bad since the new year (conceding 3+ goals in every game since 2017 started), and now they have to deal with one of the biggest threats in the country. Michael McNicholas, Patrick Grasso, and Jason Salvaggio are no slouches either.

Games are Friday and Saturday, 7pm, on CatamounTV.

Two massive games ahead of an even bigger trip to Conte.

Go Cats.

Women’s Preview: UNH @ UVM – Pack the Gut!

PACK THE FREAKIN’ GUT PEOPLE. It’s Friday night, it’s for a good cause, and this team deserves the support. I wrote more about what PtG is, and why it’s so great, for The Ice Garden earlier this week.

Oh yeah, not only is it Pack the Gut, but these are two massive games for the Cats in the absolute chaos that is the Hockey East standings. I mean that for both Cats. Both teams are equal, with 19 points in 18 games, one back of Providence and BU for home ice; both teams, as well as Providence, have two games in hand on the Terriers as well. It’ll be interesting to see how UNH responds as well; they were battered 6-0 at home last weekend by Northeastern. The two teams met earlier this season, and it wasn’t pretty for Vermont, who fell behind 4-1 very quickly and, despite a late rally, fell 4-2 at the Whitt.

UNH’s goalie scenario, which wasn’t clear back then, is pretty clear now: Hilary Cashin wins the election, posting a .908 save percentage in 18 games.

That said, the Wildcats are very shaky in the back, ranking 26th in the nation with 3 goals against per game. They do have some point production on the blueline, though, with Amy Schlagel posting 13 points so far this season, and Julia Fedeski and Marie-Jo Pelletier with 12 and 10 respectively.

Up top, one word jumps out: Jonna Curtis. Curtis has more goals alone than all UVM players except Picard and Gorecki have points. Meghara McManus (14 points) and Carlee Turner (13 points) are no slouches either, but Curtis is the engine that powers the Wildcats. Slow her down, and it’s much easier to tame these Cats.

Friday night is Pack the Gut, and there’s a Saturday afternoon game as well.

Crucial, crucial points.

Go Cats.

Men’s Preview: #12 UVM @ #17 Notre Dame

Good riddance.

This weekend’s Catamount trip out to South Bend is the last time the Catamounts will meet the Fighting Irish in conference play. That’s a good thing, not just because it ruins the bus league thing Hockey East had going – the longest road trip, Maine to UConn, is only about five hours – but because Notre Dame never really fit.

That being said…these and the BC road trip in a couple weeks are the biggest games left on the schedule for UVM. Sure, UNH is somewhat of a rivalry, and sure, Merrimack always gives us fits, but BC and ND are directly competing with UVM in not just Hockey East, but the Pairwise.

The Irish currently sit one point behind UVM in the Hockey East standings with the same amount of games played, and sit in the tournament bubble at 21st in the Pairwise, nine spots behind the Catamounts. A home sweep by ND and the Cats go from a 3 seed to possibly out of the tournament; a road sweep by UVM could vault them back into the top 10 in the PWR.

In goal, the Fighting Irish are led by Buffalo Sabres prospect and NCAA single-game record holder for saves (87, set in 2015 playoffs in a 4OT marathon) Cal Petersen. Petersen has been a staple of my fantasy team this year and for good reason: his .923 save percentage is pretty solid, and he’s played every game for the team this year. His backup has played twenty minutes all season so we won’t bother discussing him. Petersen is good. End of story.

Defensively, Notre Dame is a pretty solid team. In terms of shot attempts against, they’ve conceded the 13th least with 1329. The team also gets offense from their blueline, with Jordan Gross producing 22 points, Bobby Nardella on 15, and Andrew Peeke and Dennis Gilbert on 11. They concede about 27 shots a game, but are overall solid, and the size of guys like Gilbert, Peeke (both 6-2), and Luke Ripley (6-4) could cause problems for a smaller skill team. They’re top ten in the country for goals against for a reason.

Their offense ain’t bad either – just two notches behind Vermont in the goals per game category, and they have the tenth most shot attempts in the nation. One of the top scorers in the country, Anders Bjork, leads the way for the offense, as he sits eighth in the country in points with 38. Slowing him down won’t stop the Notre Dame offense, as Andrew Oglevie and Jake Evans are posting more than twenty points each…but if the Cats can slow him down, it’s much more manageable.

Games are Friday and Saturday, both on NBCSN.

Let’s hope for two games that showcase how good this UVM team can be to a national audience.

Go Cats.