Women’s Preview: BU @ UVM (2x)

What a weekend last weekend was. But you can’t rest on your laurels, especially with four big conference points coming up.

BU has been struggling this year, sitting at 2-6-2 and 1-5-2 in conference play. They started the year with 4 L’s in a row, but they’ve kept games close – excluding empty netters, they’ve only lost one game by one goal (a 6-3 loss to Northeastern that included an empty netter), and have lost in OT twice. They’re 0-4 in one-goal games despite outshooting their opponents. That’s bad luck more than anything, and I’d expect the Terriers to turn it around.

Their starting goalie has been a tandem so far, but Corrine Schroeder has posted the better numbers (.937 SV%) and has both wins; backup Erin O’Neil is 0-5-0 with an .897. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Schroeder start both games.

They’ve been led up front by Victoria Bach and Rebecca Leslie, who have 14 and 12 points respectively. No other forward has more than 5 points, but a pair of defenders do in Reagan Rust and Abby Cook with six each.

Three Things to Watch Out For:

  1. Power Play. UVM has the fourth-ranked power play in the nation. BU has the worst PK. Special teams could be a huge advantage for UVM this weekend.
  2. Middle Stanza. UVM’s best period goal-wise (with a +4 goal difference) is BU’s worst (-6). That’s interesting, and something to look at this weekend.
  3. Young Goalies. Assuming Schroeder starts for BU, it’s likely we see a matchup of two underclassmen in goal against Sydney Scobee. Both have impressed (Schroeder’s .937 against Scobee’s .934) despite their youth, and it could be an exciting weekend for fans of good goaltending.

Games are Friday and Saturday at the Gutt on CatamounTV.

Four big points available.

Go Cats.

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Men’s Preview: UVM @ #12 Northeastern (Ft. a Q&A)

After being eviscerated a week ago by BC, UVM continues their run on Beanpot schools and battles Northeastern this weekend.

Northeastern is riding a 6-3-1 record into this game, and split last weekend; opening with a 6-1 steamrolling of BU (without Dylan Sikura) and then falling 4-2 to UMass Lowell. They have the top offense in the country, and with UVM’s defense struggling, this is not going to be an easy game.

Instead of three keys this week, we spoke to The Northeastern Hockey Blog about the upcoming games.

VTHB: Northeastern’s offense was huge last year and continues to be huge this year. However, the defense and especially goaltending let them down. How much/has it improved this year? Has either goalie stood out enough to be the starter?

NUHB: The goaltending has been the story of Northeastern’s failures for multiple seasons now, but this year there has been improvement from both Ryan Ruck and Cayden Primeau. Ruck has a 91% save percentage, dramatically improved from last year’s 89.7%, and Primeau is sitting at 90.8%, which is deflated after only saving 9/15 in one game against QU. Obviously you cannot remove those stats, but aside from that one blip, goaltending has been much improved.

VTHB: Obviously when people think of Northeastern this year they think of Adam Gaudette and Dylan Sikura, though the latter did miss last weekend on international duty. Who else does UVM need to watch out for?

NUHB: He was hurt last weekend actually. Slashed in the BU game, missed the NU and Canada games. He’s expected back this weekend. Grant Jozefek is finally healthy, and has been playing very well on the right wing. Nolan Stevens is a senior, former 20 goal scorer and point-per-game player who has gotten hot his last few games (6 goals in 3 games). Freshman Zach Solow was the USHL leading scorer last season and is an elite playmaker. On defense Jeremy Davies may be one of the best puck handlers in the nation from the blue line- he is dangerous every time he touches it.

VTHB: The contributions of newcomers are often important; UVM last season really knew this with guys like Colton and Lodermeier. This year, Northeastern has found themselves a freshman gem in Zach Solow. What kind of role does he usually play? Would you consider him a top threat alongside the Gaudettes and Sikuras of the world?

NUHB: As I said, Solow is an elite playmaker. He’s NU’s top line center, and has an important role on the powerplay and the penalty kill. He can score, but he’s much more at home as a passer. He also is one of the Huskies’ better men in the faceoff circle, an area of concern for NU coming into this season.

VTHB: I raised my eyebrow at Garret Cockerill not playing last weekend; he was the Huskies’ leading scorer from the blueline last season and seems to be an important player. Has he regressed? Or have other players taken a big step up, especially without the puck?

NUHB:  Offensively, Cockerill is still what we expect him to be. Defensively he seems to have underperformed this year, and while he was never a defensive stalwart, this year his play has been lackluster. I don’t know why he was benched, however. He is also expected back this season, and hopefully a few games off will get him back on track. With him gone, Davies and Ryan Shea have seen their minutes increased, and they have answered the call wonderfully. Eric Williams and Garrett Cecere also have seen their playing time increase, especially Williams since he’s NU’s only other right-shot defenseman.

What is wrong with the men’s team?

Tonight, I left Gutterson early for the first time, like, ever.

It was 4-1 BC when I left, and they’d scored a fifth by the time I got back to my dorm. We’re 3-7-1, the worst start since I started watching UVM hockey in 2013 (that was my senior year of high school – I’m actually a year behind in college). And at least in 2015-16 a slow start was understandable, as the starting schedule included four teams who were top 10 at the time plus a Northeastern team that would go on to win the Hockey East tournament. And I want to talk about the team that I started following UVM hockey with – the seniors that graduated last year.

Over four years they were one of the winningest graduating classes we ever had. In each of the three years CollegeHockeyNews tracked CF% (there were no numbers for 2013-14), they were above 50%.

I should probably explain CF% (Corsi For %) since I refer to it a lot. It’s shot attempts for divided by shot attempts against. It’s a good indicator of possession and how well you control a game. (I know “Corsi” has a weird reputation, but it’s literally just attempted shots, and is named after a former goalie coach.)

Even in their biggest down year (that 2015-16 season), they had a 52.2 CF%, and all you needed to know about why that team didn’t win as much as they could have was their 6.7% shooting percentage (fifth-worst in the nation that year).

I mention this because the question is: did UVM get lucky with that class and we’re showing our true colors as a bad team once again? Is it a cultural problem? Is it a leadership problem? Is this a blip? Should I even care? Who knows?

Let’s examine this year. First year since that group (who only ever saw one NCAA tournament) graduated. We’re going to look at shot attempt counts.

Vs CC: 55-41 CC (Fri), 50-47 UVM (Sat)

@ QU: 64-53 QU

@ Union: 71-43 Union. How the hell did we get out of that with a W???

@ Michigan: 86-49 Mich (Fri), 62-62 (Sat)

Vs UNH: 77-44 UVM (the one time we’ve looked like last season’s UVM)

@ UConn: 60-54 UConn (Fri), 65-55 UConn (Sat)

Vs BC: 67-44 BC (Fri), 54-39 BC (Sat)

So yeah. Drink some of those in. We’re controlling our zone about as well as the president controls himself on Twitter. We have the eighth-worst CF% so far in the nation. Who are we ahead of? Lake Superior State, Sacred Heart, RPI, Army, St. Lawrence, and the two Alaskas. Last year our CF% was better than that of five tournament teams. That’s not just regression, that’s ALARMING regression.

Want more bad stats? UVM is now 1-5-0 after scoring first. Every time you think they’ve turned a corner and started a game strong, boom, 3 goals against in the second and now you’re in shambles.

Someone pondered on the USCHO forum, and I think it’s a FANTASTIC question – is it a lack of talent or lack of effort?

Because really that answer determines who the blame’s on.

First, I won’t buy “young team” for a second – the BC team that tore us a new one this weekend has only six players above the sophomore grade year. One of those six is their third goalie.

If it’s lack of talent, then that’s poor recruitment, which is primarily the role of Sneddon’s right-hand men, Kyle Wallack and Kevin Patrick. (Friendly reminder that we just lost a recruit to the WHL recently, as Orca Wiesblatt signed for Calgary. Did he see the writing on the wall? Maybe.)

If it’s a lack of effort, then it’s more difficult. Some would have to go to Sneddon for failing to motivate his players, and a decent chunk would have to go to the players for…well, not caring. (I do think effort has been an issue, for the record.)

I know the #FireSneddon train is back. I tend to be patient with coaches (I’m a Southampton fan and didn’t call for Claude Puel’s head until, like, April), but there should be questions about how this team is doing, and if the senior class of 2017 was just an anomaly.

And then there’s the culture question. UVM had a hazing scandal at the start of last year, and since 2013 has lost 14 players to early departure (transfers/cuts/going pro/CHL etc.) Those both bring up questions about the culture and atmosphere of this program. (Also, the high penalty minutes – 13th most in the country – could also be a symptom of this, but it could also just be frustration; that said you have to stay disciplined in this sport.)

I know this is a rant, and I know I’m crapping on the men’s team a lot right now. But that’s because I care, I want this team to do well. But right now they’re hard to watch. And it’s not going to get easier with a road trip to a very good Northeastern team coming up.

Recap: UVM (W) 3, #3 Clarkson 2

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Well. How about that.

That headline ain’t a typo. UVM 3, #3 Clarkson, reigning national champions, 2. Only the second win for UVM against the Golden Knights in 22 tries in program history.

First goal came pretty midway through the first. Beautiful shot by Alyssa Gorecki in the slot, off a fantastic feed by Ali O’Leary (who’s made some huge strides as a sophomore).

Midway through the second, UVM got into some penalty trouble, and Clarkson’s potent PP showed its status as “very good.” Savannah Harmon found Élizabeth Giguère down low, and she sent it cross ice to Michaela Pejzlová for one of the easiest goals she’ll score all year. A fantastic passing play that showed just how good Clarkson is at moving the puck when they’re on.

A couple more penalties resulted in a Clarkson five-on-three and another goal by Pejzlová. It really stemmed from a broken play – Giguère tried to center it, it deflects off of Éve-Audrey Picard’s stick, Rhyen McGill fired, is denied by Sydney Scobee, but Pejzlová buried the rebound. It doesn’t have to be pretty, and Clarkson went ahead 2-1.

Cats get an equalizer before the period’s out, though, as Gorecki snipes home a wonderful shot from the right hand side. It’s a 2-2 game headed to the third.

And the game came down to the last two minutes.

With 1:15 to go, Emma Keenan took a holding penalty.

UVM won the draw. Saana Valkama sent the puck to Taylor Flaherty at the point. Flaherty passed d-to-d to Taylor Willard. The captain ripped a wrister top-shelf past Shea Tiley, and you could feel the joy from the players up in the stands. They could do this – just had to hold on for another 68 seconds.

And hold on they did. The horn sounded, and the players mobbed Scobee in celebration of a huge win for this season and the program.

Some thoughts:

  • That was Coach Plumer’s 70th win, tying him for the program record for most all-time. Kinda fitting, in a way.
  • Gorecki played the game of her life out there. That was an impressive performance.
  • Now, the game’s about to start in the second game of the weekend series. It’ll be interesting/terrifying to see how Clarkson respond; their last loss, they responded with an annihilation of a good Cornell team.

The Vermont Hockey Blog Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Sydney Scobee (UVM) – 35 save performance, but what I was most impressed with was her poise. She’s so calm between the pipes.
  2. Alyssa Gorecki (UVM) – A pair of goals off of some wonderful shots.
  3. Taylor Willard (UVM) – If you read Coach Plumer’s post on his own blog from last week (you should – it’s fantastic and gives some insight into the team atmosphere), he felt that Willard scoring the winning goal to cement a sweep of Merrimack (after the turnover late that led to UNH’s tying goal) was poetic justice. I’d honestly say this was even moreso; it’s one of the biggest wins in program history secured by one of the best players in program history (especially on the blueline). So that gave her the edge,

Women’s Preview: UVM vs. #3 Clarkson (Home and Home)

Oh boy.

When I talked to Coach Plumer at the start of the year, he called this year’s schedule one of, if not the toughest in the country. This is one of the games that makes it so, as the reigning national champions battle UVM in a home and home.

They’re unbeaten away from Cheel Arena. They’ve beaten the crap out of very good Northeastern, St. Lawrence, and Cornell teams. Their lone loss was to another top-5 team (Colgate) in overtime. And when they’re on, no team moves the puck better than the Golden Knights. Oh, and they’re confident as hell going into this one after a 11-1 embarrassment of Brown at Meehan.

Every great team needs a fantastic goalie, and Clarkson has that in Shea Tiley. After not playing as a freshman, her sophomore and junior seasons both saw save percentages around .930; this year, she’s jumped up to a .940. More importantly, she is amazing in big games. On the biggest stage of her career, in the national championship game last year, she outdueled Patty Kazmaier Award winner Ann-Renée Desbiens with a 41 save shutout. She also shut out Cornell in the ECAC championship game. Her backups don’t really play, but I’d like to point out that Kia Castonguay, their third goalie, has my favorite water-type Pokemon on her mask. Unrelated, I know, but I just love Milotic so much.

Back to hockey…Clarkson’s defense is also excellent. They’ve only given up 14 goals in 12 games (only Wisconsin has a lower GAA outside of that weird scheduling alliance between Sacred Heart, St. Mike’s, Post, et al), and outshoot opponents by an average of ten shots per game. AN AVERAGE. And they’ve been mostly playing good teams, which is the scary part. To personnel… they’re getting a decent amount of points from back there too, with sophomore Ella Shelton and senior Savannah Harmon both with ten points or more. Josiane Pozzebon has also chipped in eight, and every defender on this team has at least one point.

Up front, Clarkson scores when they want. Their goals-per-game is second highest amongst teams outside of that scheduling alliance (behind only BC), and one duo in particular has stood out, as both sit in a tie for third in the country in points. The first half of this duo is a junior, Loren Gabel, who has gotten better every year, jumping from 27 points as a freshman to 42 points this year and is on pace for over 70 this year. The other is a freshman, Élizabeth Giguère, who I would have probably said has been the best freshman in the country if Daryl Watts didn’t exist. Michaela Pejzlová, Rhyen McGill, and Cassidy Vinkle also produce plenty of points for a deep squad.

Games are Friday at 2 at UVM (can be seen on CatamounTV – thanks to my 2:20 class’s professor for cancelling class that day!) and Saturday at 3 in Potsdam.

A win in either probably goes down as the biggest win in program history. Let’s go ladies, go out and stun the women’s hockey world.

Go Cats.

Men’s Preview: BC @ UVM (2x)

I never thought we’d live in a world where the only Hockey East Beanpot school over .500 was Northeastern, but here we are.

BC has fallen out of the USCHO top 20 for the first time since 2009. Part of me goes “yeah, they’re below .500 and started with the literal worst start in program history,” but then you also realize who they played in those first seven games: Denver, St. Cloud, Quinnipiac, Wisconsin, and Providence. Yeah, that’s tough. And they’ve rebounded a bit with three wins in a row, and welcome starting goalie Joseph Woll back from a one-game suspension for kicking a Merrimack player last weekend. Granted it hasn’t been against amazing competition (Merrimack is 1-6-2 and UConn is 3-7-1), but you gotta take wins when you can.

Three Things to Watch Out For:

  1. First Goal Jinx? Both teams have actually been better when the other team scores first – UVM is 1-5 when scoring first (their lone win being a shutout) and BC 0-4; UVM is 2-0-1 and BC 4-1-1 when the other team scores first. That is…certainly strange.
  2. Improve in possession. Defense has definitely been an issue for Vermont in the early going (our CF% being a painful 46.6 and allowing an average of 3 goals per game). But BC’s offense has been anemic – 1.9 goals per game is the second-worst in the nation (Ferris State is averaging 1.7). That said, they’re a positive possession team and their shooting percentage is also second-worst, only better than Ferris’s. This team will click sooner rather than later and UVM has to be on their toes.
  3. The Penalty Kill. The PK has been a bright spot for UVM, at 90.2%, good for seventh in the nation. The PP for BC has been woeful, with a 13.2% success rate ranking in the bottom ten. Keep it up and the Cats have a good chance.

Games are Friday and Saturday at 7 on CatamounTV.

Go Cats.

Women’s Preview: UVM @ UNH

Really? So soon? Schedulemakers please.

The only differences between this and the game at Gutterson  two weeks ago are that it’s two games instead of one, in Durham and not Burlington, and with a UVM team that’s finally healthy. Anything else can be found in the preview from then, and since then they’ve beaten Maine and tied BU.

Three Things To Watch Out For:

  1. Lake Whitt. UVM goes from playing on Merrimack’s small ice and defense and goaltending-oriented style to the Olympic sized sheet at UNH’s Whittemore Center. It’s going to be a more open game, and UVM’s defense is going to have to be careful not to make it too open.
  2. Get the Forwards Going. Last weekend at Lawler, four of UVM’s five goals were by defenders. The one by a forward was an empty netter. The forwards, now finally healthy, need to pick up where the defense left off.
  3. What’s new, Scobee-doo? With 91 saves on 96 shots in three straight starts, it seems to me like Sydney Scobee has won herself the starting job for now. Let’s see if she can keep it up. Her size is unique among D-I women’s goalies, and she’s proven to be solid positionally and well-composed in her crease.

Games are Friday at 7 and Saturday at 4. They’ll be on WatchESPN, no cable subscription required.

Go Cat(amount)s.

Men’s Preview: UVM @ UConn (2x)

Peter Karmanos Sucks!

After a draw at home to a solid UNH side last weekend that Kevin Sneddon described as the first 60 (65, really) minute performance of the year, UVM looks to build on it as they head on down to Pucky’s town for a battle with the UConn Huskies.

The start of the first year post-Tage Thompson has…not been kind to UConn. They sit at 2-5-1 and the wins came against Maine and American International. They lost to Sacred Heart, bounced back with a tie at BU, and are coming off a spanking at the hands of Miami by a combined 10-1 score.

I’m a fan of Adam Huska in goal, but he’s been shaky this year with a .893 save percentage. The team in front of him is a positive possession team, although that’s largely due to a terrific 56.9 CF% on the power play; they’re actually net negative at even strength. Defender Johnny Austin leads the team in points with 9, while Alexander Payusov is second in points (8) and tops in goals (6).

Three Things To Watch Out For:

  1. Starting Strong. That is a thing UConn is not good at – they’ve been outscored 15-3 in the first period and outshot 96-74. They’ll be looking to start strong, especially after that 7-1 disaster at Miami on Saturday.
  2. Make the Power Play count. UConn’s penalty kill has been awful so far, operating at a 69% clip. That’s something UVM could exploit, especially after the PP was relatively ineffective against UNH.
  3. UConnov. Up front, UConn’s biggest threats are their two “ov”s, Russian forward Maxim Letunov and the aformentioned Payusov. Anything UConn wants to do offensively usually goes through them.

Games are Friday at 7 and Saturday at 3:30. Stuck behind a paywall because UConn isn’t in 2017.

Go Cats.