Season Recap: The Defense

The second of our three-part series recapping UVM hockey’s season. Today we look at the defenders.

For Part One, focusing on goaltenders, click here.


WOMEN

Taylor Willard (Jr.) – 38 GP, 4-12-16

Daria O’Neill (So.) – 38 GP, 1-15-16

Rachael Ade (Sr.) – 38 GP, 7-7-14

Amanda Drobot (Jr.) – 37 GP, 1-8-9

Katherine Pate (Jr.) – 36 GP, 2-4-6

Sammy Kolowrat (So.) – 35 GP, 1-4-5

Rachel Khalouf (So.) – 17 GP, 0-1-1

Improvement across the board offensively; only Willard had fewer points than 2015-16 (she had 19). Ade in particular had a huge jump up in production, with 6 points in each of her first three seasons but 14 as a senior. The shots  against remained the same, around 30 per game, but the goals against went way down (2.34 per game this season as opposed to 3.24 last year), and the PK was dazzling, at one point going almost two months without a power play goal against. Now some would attribute it to improved goaltending…but I  think the D improved as well this year. The only teams that really poured on the shots against the Cats were BC (who the Cats managed to push to OT twice, including the 2OT instant classic in the WHEA semis), Robert Morris (in the second game of a road series, and the Cats did come away with a point), and Clarkson (I don’t know if you’ve heard, but they kind of just won a thing). Even BU and Northeastern were outshot on multiple occasions by the Cats.

Only one loss in the senior class in the form of Rachael Ade. Per HockeyTech’s commits list, the Cats do have one defender coming in next season, Anna Erickson from the Minnesota Revolution.

Apologies this won’t have as much stats as the men’s will have…advanced stats for the women’s game are not readily available. Given that many of the #FancyStats crowd I’ve seen are women…get it together people!


MEN

Rob Hamilton (Sr.) – 38 GP, 10-11-21

Matt O’Donnell (Fr.) – 36 GP, 3-10-13

Trey Phillips (Jr.) – 31 GP, 3-7-10

Chris Muscoby (Sr.) – 27 GP, 1-8-9

Jake Massie (Fr.) – 29 GP, 0-7-7

Corey Moriarty (Fr.) – 19 GP, 1-4-5

Ori Abramson (Sr.) – 22 GP, 1-3-4 – His year situation’s complicated…and also relatable

Mike Lee (So.) – 15 GP, 0-3-3

Max Daigle (Fr.) – 8 GP, 0-3-3 – Departed after first semester

This year’s crop on D was freshman heavy, with four first-years heading into the season. Daigle left in December, but everyone else stuck around and showed rather well. Matt O’Donnell gets a LOT of flak, and though he’s shaky defensively, I think he’s got quite a bit of talent offensively and proved as such throughout the year. Massie looked fairly solid once he adapted; he’s nothing great offensively but has decent size and mobility and can get into passing lanes. As for Moriarty…I feel like half the times I watched him, he was hemmed in his own zone and unable to get out.

Now to the upperclassmen. Mike Lee played less than his freshman year, so really tough to judge any improvement…though I’d be concerned that you’re losing your spot to a newbie. Ori Abramson’s injury, in my opinion, was probably the turning point of UVM’s season when the team started to dip; they badly missed his size. Muscoby was Muscoby, solid but not great, and Trey Phillips had a nice run in December when he had 3 game winners in 4 games, but was otherwise fairly unremarkable.

And then we get to Robbie Hamilton. My good grief. Two goals his first three years combined…10 this year. Throw in 11 assists and the best he’s ever been defensively, and I don’t think I’ve seen a guy turn around this quickly at UVM. I’d heard some rumors during the fall that he was the intended second cut on D and not Mitch Ferguson, and that he’d asked Sneddon for a second chance. I don’t know if there’s truth to that – we’ll probably never know – but on a UVM team that, going into the season, didn’t really have a go-to #1 D…this guy comes out of NOWHERE and puts together the first 10-goal season by a defender since Louis Côté.  Mike Paliotta couldn’t do it. Aaron Miller couldn’t do it. Drew MacKenzie couldn’t do it. Kenny MacAulay couldn’t do it. Rob Hamilton did.

The Cats on the season were a positive possession team in all situations except the power play, with a 51.4 CF% overall, 52.3 CF% on even strength, and 53.2 CF% in one-goal or tie situations. Remove blocked shots, and though the numbers change, the point stands: the Cats had the puck more than they didn’t, and you’ve got to transition the puck from defense to attack. The D did just that this year.

The Cats have, at the very least, Christian Evers and Owen Grant coming in next season. Evers is ex-NTDP who decommitted from North Dakota; Grant is coming off a year in which he was named CCHL Defenseman of the Year. Let’s see who joins them; this D corps has a lot of potential.

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Season Recap: The Goaltending

The first of our three-part series recapping UVM hockey’s season. Today we look at the goaltenders.


WOMEN

Madison Litchfield (Sr.) – 10-7-6, 2.08 GAA, .928 SV%

Melissa Black (So.) – 4-6-3, 2.68 GAA, .913 SV%

Sydney Scobee (Fr.) – 1-1-0, 2.14 GAA, .918 SV%

The  Cats entered the season with a question mark in goal. Madi Litchfield’s career SV% to that point was a meager .893, Sydney Scobee was a first-year and thus unproven at this level. Black was brought in to presumably compete with Litchfield, having experience at the D-I level as the poor sacrificial lamb behind Union’s defense during their winless 2015-16 season.

That question was answered resoundingly.

In her last season, the Williston native Litchfield played the best hockey of her career. She jumped from a mediocre goalie who would be a back-up elsewhere in Hockey East to one of the better keepers in the nation. She ranked twelfth in the country in save percentage, and her goals-against average dropped by almost a goal (2.92 to 2.08) from her junior year. Her 49 save performance in her final career game, the Hockey East semi against BC, will go down as one of the greatest games ever played by a UVM women’s goalie. Her numbers in Hockey East play placed her third in the conference in save percentage and goals against. And that’s behind two quality keepers in BU’s Victoria Hanson and BC’s Katie Burt.

And the drop-off wasn’t too bad when Jim Plumer wished to give Litchfield a breather. Black’s .913 save percentage was the best by a UVM backup since Kelci Lanthier posted a .916 in 2012-13, though it was down from the .931 Black posted at Union. And while we didn’t see much of Scobee, she looked very promising in her limited minutes, stopping 27 at a loss to tournament-bound Robert Morris and 15 in a scoreless third period in that awful 7-1 loss at BC in February. I think we’ll see more of Scobee next season; Litchfield speaks very highly of her.

Even though Litchfield is graduating, the future of UVM in goal seems to be in good hands.


MEN

Stefanos Lekkas (Fr.) – 17-10-5, 2.61 GAA, .909 SV%

Mike Santaguida (Sr.) – 2-3-0, 3.20 GAA, .882 SV%

Pat Feeley (Sr.) – 0-0-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV%

Feeley’s minutes were VERY limited, it basically consisted of six minutes when the Cats were up 7-1 on Bentley in December. So nothing really to note there, other than that he graduates with less ice time than any other goalie I’ve ever seen.

As for Santa…this was a frustrating year, which sucks after he gave three good-to-great years to the program. He lost the starting job to Lekkas early in the season, then went down with an injury and missed most of the stretch drive. He appeared in relief briefly in Game 1 of that disastrous BC quarterfinal, but other than that, he did not play after the new year.

So we get to Lekkas. The Catamounts put their faith in a freshman once before and it paid off handsomely in the form of Brody Hoffman. And while Lekkas got more rest than Hoffman’s 2012-13 and put up slightly better numbers, I’m not sure who the real Lekkas is.

His season basically flipped after the Belfast tournament, after which he was named the Most Outstanding Player. For much of the first half, Stef was a walking trophy case, ending the season with seven Hockey East awards. In his first eleven college games, Lekkas posted a .943 save percentage, and going into the BU home series, the story was Hockey East’s two hot freshman goalies: Lekkas vs. Oettinger.

Something happened during or after that BU series, and Lekkas struggled handsomely down the stretch.

Maybe it was overplay; Santaguida went down with an injury and Sneddon didn’t seem to trust Feeley, forcing Lekkas to play night in-night out. Maybe it was defensive issues, as Ori Abramson missed significant time and UVM couldn’t replace his size. Whatever the case, Lekkas posted a .892 the rest of the way. If he posted that number all season long, that would have ranked tied for 67th in the nation amongst qualified goalies, of which there are 74. The goalies at or below that mark play for the following teams: Arizona State, Niagara, Alaska-Fairbanks, AIC, Wisconsin, Brown, Michigan State, and Michigan State again. Yeesh.

Basically what I’m saying is, will the real Stefanos Lekkas please stand up? He’ll be the lone guy with NCAA experience in goal heading into next season, as both Santaguida and Feeley will be replaced with freshmen Matt Beck and Tyler Harmon. He needs to be closer to first half Lekkas than second half. I’m not saying he has to be elite, he just has to be solid. And if he isn’t solid…hopefully one of Harmon or Beck will be, or else it will be a long winter in Burlington.

Part 2 probably out before the weekend.

RECAP: #6 UVM (M) 5, #11 Maine 0 (Cats lead 1-0)

Well, that was fun.

3-0 up after one, Lekkas playing his best since the Belpot, and two from Liam Coughlin who hadn’t scored since October 22 at Omaha. And we moved up to 16th in the Pairwise, meaning WE’RE BACK IN THE HUNT. All without leading scorer Ross Colton, who’s out with a wrist injury.

First goal’s a tip, Ori with the shot, Coughlin tips it. Coughlin did real well tonight using that big frame of his. Also, that was his first goal at the Gutt. As a sophomore forward. All 3 of his goals last season plus the goal against Omaha came on the road.

Second one’s a bit more lucky, Black Bear defender Stephen Cochrane loses it in his skates, Coughlin converts on a partial breakaway. 2-0, and the Gutt is going wild.

Third goal coming with 49 seconds to go. Shaw with a lovely drop pass and Puffer with a laser of a shot. It’s 3-0 and this one looks done…except for our D having been shaky lately.

Never fear. They block a motherlode of shots and the ones they don’t block Lekkas stops. There was one outrageous sequence where Lekkas made two or three saves and then was out of position and Abramson went down for the block. Words cannot describe how much Ori was missed while he was hurt.

And then the fourth comes, and Coughlin plays a role again. Bradley gains the line, sends a cross ice pass to Massie. Coughlin cuts to the side of the net, drawing a Maine player out of the play. Rob McGovern stops Massie’s shot but Bradley buries the rebound into an empty net. 4-0.

And then the final goal is also a rebound, great passing between Puskarich and Bowen. Bowen’s centering pass is tipped on goal by a Maine defender but Mario buries the rebound. 5-0. Game finally done.

The Vermont Hockey Blog Three Stars of the Game

  1. Stefanos Lekkas (UVM) – FINALLY we see the Lekkas of October and November. Showed his composure with a shutout. Won a Clark Cup in the USHL, can he do it again in Hockey East?
  2. Liam Coughlin (UVM) – Probably his best game as a Catamount.
  3. Ori Abramson (UVM) – Quietly one of the best players last night, bringing a physical edge and blocking shots while contributing an assist.

Cats go for the kill tonight.