Season Recap: Three Best Games of the Season

Simply because I’m already in offseason withdrawals, here’s another season recap piece, this one focusing on the three best moments of the season for UVM hockey. We’re doing three for both squads.


WOMEN

HONORABLE MENTIONS: The sweep of Northeastern at Matthews, the new Pack the Gut attendance record, Bridget Baker’s hat trick against St. Cloud

3) Vermont 3, No. 9 Boston University 2 | October 9

This one was basically a coin flip between this game and the second game at Northeastern away. Given that BU was ranked higher at the time, I felt the desire to go with this one, plus I was actually there. Catamounts opened the scoring through Ève-Audrey Picard out of a scramble, before BU responded with an absolute snipe from Samantha Sutherland. Cats go ahead again through Saana Valkama (congrats on the bronze medal, BTW) off a great feed from Picard, BU responds through Sutherland again on a weird deflection off what looked like Melissa Black’s glove. Cats get the winner through another scramble, this one by Gorecki. A hell of a way to kick off conference play and just an overall sign that this year was going to be much different than last.

2) Vermont 5, Providence 2 | February 26

After losing Game 1 in the last thirty seconds against a team you’ve struggled against all year, some teams would be utterly demoralized. This year’s Vermont women’s hockey team was not one of those teams. They whomped Providence 5-1 in Game 2 to set up a Game 3 at Schneider.

Cats opened the scoring with Gorecki tipping home Victoria Andreakos’s centering pass, then doubled it less than a minute later as Picard finished off a beautiful pass from Valkama. The Finn herself would score with 9 seconds to go to extend Vermont’s lead to 3-0 out of a mad scramble after two great saves by Friar keeper (and Colchester native) Madison Myers. Early in the second, another one, a power play goal by Gorecki on the rebound. Providence would pull two back, first through a tip by Rachel Rockwell and second through a point shot by Kate Friesen. But this day, and series, belonged to the Catamounts; Picard buried an empty netter for the 5-2 win and Vermont’s first-ever best-of-three series win, booking their trip to the semifinals, where…

1) No. 6 Boston College 4, Vermont 3 (2OT) | March 4

I feel weird putting a loss at #1…but less weird in knowing that it was one of the greatest women’s hockey games I’ve ever seen. The Eagles were heavy favorites, with the prior meeting at Conte resulting in a 7-1 rout, but the Catamounts showed heart and determination and pushed a VERY good team to the limit.

BC opened the scoring on a passing play so pretty I wasn’t even mad (four tape-to-tape passes in a row), finished off by Kenzie Kent. They’d double the lead early in the second through Caitrin Lonergan, but the Cats would pull one back through a Taylor Willard point shot about six and a half minutes later. BC restored the two goal cushion at 12:03 of the second by a beautiful wrister by Makenna Newkirk, putting the Eagles up 3-1, which as we learned in 2016 was the most dangerous and meme-able lead in sports.

But the Cats showed resilience and got right back up from that punch, as Ali O’Leary cleaned up a rebound from a point shot by Willard for her first collegiate goal – talk about a big time to get your first, eh? Early in the third, Gorecki – who had a MONSTER playoffs – gets the goal to tie it, tipping one past Katie Burt. 3-3. Holy smokes.

Unfortunately, victory was not UVM’s on the day, as Andie Anastos slipped a backhander past Madison Litchfield to win it at 3:03 of the second overtime.

Yes, the Catamounts lost…but if this game doesn’t sell you on this program’s progress and how promising this team is, and how skilled and hard-working these ladies are, then I have no idea what will. They took a team that was less than thirty seconds away from the national championship game all the way to double overtime. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the performance of Madison Litchfield who, in her last game for UVM, put on a clinic with 49 saves.

If you’re a UVM fan and you’re in the Burlington area, catch a game next season while there’s still room on the bandwagon!


MEN

HONORABLE MENTIONS: That comeback at BC after going down 3-0, the playoff sweep of Maine, and wrapping up the program’s perfect record against the legendary Red Berenson

3) Vermont 5, Clarkson 2 | October 7

The Catamounts’ offseason was not a good one. The only real change for much of the summer was the transfer of Packy Munson, UVM’s #1 for most of 2015-16, to Denver. But in the two weeks leading up to opening night, it was not pretty. Two players, Jacob Kearley and Mitch Ferguson, were cut for “athletic reasons.” The team lost its preseason game to Concordia. And completing this hat-trick of suck, the day before the team traveled to Potsdam, UVM announced that its entire leadership group (minus Travis Blanleil) were banned 5 games for their roles in a hazing scandal. It was looking like the program was in shambles, and expectations from fans were very low as the puck dropped at Cheel.

Instead, they made a statement with a resounding win against their former ECAC rival. Ori Abramson scored just 2:10 into the game, tapping home a feed from Blanleil, which was the lone goal until the third period when the Golden Knights got back in it on a beautiful shot from Jordan Boucher. But that tie didn’t last long, as Brian Bowen converted on the power play less than 90 seconds later, and the Cats cruised from there, earning goals from Blanleil, Brady Shaw, and Jarrid Privitera.

After the tumultuous offseason, the Cats needed that win. Not just a win, but a dominant one.

2) #12 Vermont 4, #5 Boston University 2 | December 9

There was quite a bit of hype going into this one. BU’s roster was absolutely LOADED with about a gajillion draft picks, and the Catamounts were coming off a win in the Friendship Four (spoilers: which I’ll get to…) over then-#3 Quinnipiac. Not only that, but Stefanos Lekkas and Jake Oettinger were posting some of the best numbers among freshman goalies in the nation. Then, before puck drop, the hype intensified when megatalented Clayton Keller was in the lineup for the Terriers after missing a chunk of the season with injury. And to top off the hype machine, the UVM student section name would be announced that night after an online competition. The winner was “The Den,” submitted by Tyler Davis, the SGA vice president who graduates this month.

BU scored first as Bobo Carpenter buried a rebound past Lekkas into a fairly open net. Six minutes later, UVM tied it as Anthony Petruzzelli finished a beautiful pass from Derek Lodermeier, and UVM took the lead in the last minute of the period through Matt O’Donnell’s point shot. BU would tie it up again early in the second as Patrick Harper cleaned up the mess caused by a Clayton Keller point shot, and it was 2-2.

Midway through the third, Vermont took the lead for good, and it was yet another rebound. Jake Massie took a shot through traffic, Lodermeier missed it, and Tom Forgione, the hometown boy from South Burlington, cleaned up the mess to make it 3-2. Ross Colton would add an empty netter.

The atmosphere at the Gutt that night was electric, and the game itself was thrilling. (Unrelated side note, but the fact that David Quinn couldn’t get a team with that much talent to the Frozen Four should DQ him from any NHL gigs.)

And now…for #1…oh come on i basically leaked it already

1) #20 Vermont 5, #3 Quinnipiac 1 | November 26

I’m gonna be blunt here. BREAK GAMES SUCK. So when I heard UVM was going to Belfast over Thanksgiving, needless to say I was excited that another break wasn’t gonna be marred with home games in front of townies with no atmosphere. (No disrespect to townies, but the student-driven atmosphere is what gives NCAA hockey its charm; I’m living off-campus next year so I’ll be able to make them and hopefully liven up the place lol). After brushing off a pathetic UMass Amherst team, I was a bit pessimistic about playing the Bobcats, who were NCAA runner-up in 2016 and had lost just twice all season to that point.

Instead, it wasn’t much of a contest; it was much like UVM’s skunking of Quinnipiac in basketball two weeks earlier. Yes, Lekkas had to make 40 saves, but the Cats got basically every grade-A scoring chance and converted, and most of those shots came with Quinnipiac trailing by multiple goals.

Colton opened the scoring off a neutral zone turnover by the Bobcats, and Mario Puskarich doubled the lead about seven minutes later off a great pass by Craig Puffer. Late in the second, it was 3-0 on a tip by Privitera, and the Catamounts were cruising. Craig Martin pulled one back for Quinnipiac midway through the third on a bomb, but Colton added a second goal not long after that, burying his own rebound. Lodermeier added an insurance goal on a beautiful backhander.

This game wound up destroying Quinnipiac’s season. They lost 5 of their next 7 and missed the NCAA tournament. For the Catamounts, it was silverware outside of the Catamount Cup,  and a huge confidence boost going into the BU series two weeks later.

When we fans criticize the team down the stretch? It’s because we know they’re capable of games like this.

And I’ll leave you with this Twitter video of Coach Sneddon and the squad celebrating their tournament triumph in Ulster.

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