Men’s Preview: Quinnipiac @ UVM (ft. Q&A with Bobcats Hockey Blog)

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Photo: Brian Jenkins

Won’t be talking about last night’s exhibition as it was a super pointless game (what’s the point of playing the exhibition when you’ve already played), so let’s just get into this quickly…but first, the game info.

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Men’s Hockey Season Preview

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Photo: UVM athletics. Interesting note, the away jerseys are different this year. Striping remains the same, but new name font and white replacing gold as the text color.

Y’know, I started doing the season preview to replace exhibition previews, where I analyzed Canadian teams I knew nothing about. I didn’t expect to have to do it after a game had already been played. So this will be part-predictions and part-takeaways from the Michigan upset.


Goaltenders: Stefanos Lekkas (Jr.), Tyler Harmon (Soph.), Matt Beck (Soph.)

Can we all agree Lekkas just put forth the best goaltending performance UVM will probably have all season? That’s not to say he’ll suck – he’s a great goalie on his day – but that was a type of performance I’ve not seen in a long time. If he can put together some consistency, there’s no reason he can’t be one of the better goalies in Hockey East. When he’s on, he’s ON…it’s just when he’s not on that can be concerning.

As for his backups, Harmon will probably be the backup that actually gets minutes, and he’s a good compliment to Lekkas. Whereas Lekkas is a smaller goalie that primarily makes saves with his great athleticism, Harmon is a more of a big positional goalie that lets shots come to him. As for Beck, well…he seems like a nice dude, but if he winds up playing something has gone horribly wrong. Or horribly right, like when Pat Feeley made a brief appearance during a 7-1 spanking of Bentley a few years back.


Defenders: Matt O’Donnell (Jr.), Jake Massie (Jr.), Corey Moriarty (Jr.), Brian Kelly (Soph.), Owen Grant (Soph.), Christian Evers (Soph.), Cory Thomas (Soph.), Carter Long (Fr.), Andrew Petrillo (Fr.)

This is the area where UVM has to be better this year. And while the Cats got killed in the shot count and shot attempt category in Ann Arbor, I can explain that with two things:

-power plays (Michigan had 28 shot attempts on the PP, 20 of which were on goal)

-score effects (UVM led virtually the entire game, and teams trailing will naturally attempt more shots)

That being said, while it is a logical way of thinking, shot suppression still has to be better. Having some cohesion and consistency helps. The top pair features O’Donnell and Massie, who compliment each other very well – Massie’s more of a stay at home guy who allows for O’Donnell to get forward and play with the puck. The rest is a bit unclear, but the Cats played with Carter Long and Christian Evers on the second pair in Ann Arbor and Cory Thomas and Owen Grant on the third pair. This is more size than I’ve seen from UVM’s blueline in ages.

I do want to give a quick shoutout to Carter Long, who I thought looked good against Michigan. There was one play late in the first where he made a simple poke check to break up a one-on-one. That’s a play I expect a veteran to make. For a kid playing his first college game in that kind of atmosphere? I expect a two minute tripping penalty.


Forwards: Liam Coughlin (Sr.), Conor O’Neil (Sr.), Craig Puffer (Sr.), Derek Lodermeier (Jr.), Matt Alvaro (Jr.), Bryce Misley (Soph.), Vladislav Dzhioshvili (Soph.), Ace Cowans (Soph.), Martin Fréchette (Soph.), Alex Esposito (Soph.), Max Kaufman (Soph.), Dallas Comeau (Fr.), Johnny DeRoche (Fr.), Nic Hamre (Fr.), Joey Cipollone (Fr.)

The big takeaway from that Michigan game for me, besides “Stef Lekkas when he’s good is a literal god,” is that this team’s strength is speed and forechecking. They forced Michigan’s D, who beyond that top pair was either inexperienced or “meh”, to make mistakes with the puck and rush decisions.

The loss of Ross Colton obviously hurts skill-wise, but Liam Coughlin filled in the 1C role pretty well in the opener alongside Matt Alvaro and Alex Esposito, who have picked up where they left off last season. The ACE line is alive and well. Coughlin is obviously a different player than Colton, but his size is a great asset and his puck skills are solid too. This line clicked VERY well in Ann Arbor.

The second line was Martin Fréchette, Vladislav Dzhioshvili, and Bryce Misley. While Misley was fairly quiet, Fréchette and Dzhioshvili – who combined only played 9 games as freshmen (Fréchette was largely a healthy scratch while Dzhioshvili missed the first half of the season with a foot injury), gave the Wolverines fits with their speed and constant pressure, and combined for a very pretty counterattack goal for the kill. The bottom seven that night (DeRoche-Puffer-Cipollone and Kaufman-Lodermeier-O’Neil, with Cowans as an extra forward) was largely pretty meh.

As for the freshmen…DeRoche looks like he can be something offensively (I don’t know what his ceiling is, but his instincts are good and he’s pretty quick), and Hamre will be a fan favorite. He kind of reminds me a bit of Tom Forgione, who I miss a lot. He’s a battler that doesn’t take a shift off and has some offensive pop. Dallas Comeau has some offensive potential as well, and Joey Cipollone seems like an all-round guy more than a potent scorer.


With all this said…there is talent in this team. Now it’s up to Coach Sneddon and his assistants to put it together. Expectations, even within the fanbase, are pretty low. I predicted UVM for 9th in Hockey East, which was in line with the media poll. This staff needs to deliver at least something this year, or the clock will slowly tick towards the end of their stint at UVM. They’ve gotten the Cats off to a good start with a shocking upset win, but as any coach will tell you, it’s a process. With Quinnipiac coming up this weekend, and a stretch of four straight winnable games after that (@New Hampshire and @Brown, then a pair at home with UConn), this is a chance to build momentum and make us believe.

I’m not going to be a prisoner of the moment and say that we’re going to be good based on one game. You need to put together a resume. It’s a good start, don’t get me wrong, and I’m enjoying the moment. I’m just not expecting it to last, even if I tried to be as positive as possible in this preview.

Prove me wrong.

The New Student’s Guide to UVM Men’s Ice Hockey

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Photo: UVM Athletics

Hello, UVM freshmen. And transfers. And people here on study abroad. And students that are trying to get into UVM hockey for the first time…you get the point. You want to fit in at Gutterson Fieldhouse in the student section, but don’t know where to start. Have no fear, I am here.

When and where should I show up?

Doors at Gutterson open an hour before puck drop. If you want the best seats, arrive early; you can catch warmups too. AND if you arrive early and there’s a promotion that night, you can get your hands on some merch. For example, there’s a cowbell giveaway on Saturday against Quinnipiac!

WARNING: Do not bring bags, unless it’s like a Ziploc. I hate the Gutterson (and Patrick) bag policy too, it’s garbage and doesn’t actually make me feel any safer (in fact I’m more afraid of theft, as I did have a hoodie stolen at a game a couple years ago…which also had my dorm key in it), but it is what it is, and we have to abide by it. (Which doubly sucks for women fans…)

The student entrance is in between Patrick and the main entrance, kind of tucked away. Having a student ticket gets you general admission seats in sections 9-12, where you can sit anywhere in those sections. If you want the rowdiest, best experience where you’re gonna shout yourself hoarse, look to the back of Section 12. Our student section is called “The Den” as the result of a contest held in 2016/17, with the winning entry submitted by Tyler Davis, a former UVM SGA vice president and one of the most passionate UVM fans to be around at a game.

The pep band is between sections 9 and 10. If you don’t want that noise blasting in your ear, don’t sit in those sections. (This isn’t meant to insult our pep band, who is excellent, moreso a warning to people overwhelmed by loud noises; I myself am autistic and get overstimmed by audio a lot, so that’s part of why I tend to reside in 12.)

Help, I can’t decide what to wear!

Just wear something UVM or hockey related! Surely you’ve got something between those two. Preferably a hoodie or jersey, as Gutterson can be pretty cold. There’s no one color that the student section wears as a giant blob.

Okay, I’m in the student section, UVM/hockey apparel and all. What now?

First rule: STAND UP. Or we’ll chant at you to do so. If you physically cannot stand up due to injuries or something like that, that’s fine! But if you can stand and you’re not, you’re doing it wrong. (We don’t usually do this for exhibitions, such as Thursday’s game against Laurentian, but for Quinnipiac on Saturday you better be standing!)


We’ll start with “special times” chants.

OTHER TEAM TAKES A PENALTY

“Skate! Skate! Skate! Skate!” Repeat as long as they take the long journey to the box. When they get into the box, “Sit dowwwwwn!” (Many students add “BITCH” to that, and while I think it’s a little questionable, I can’t police it as I’m just a student myself)

AFTER A GOAL

Scream your head off while the pep band plays the fight song. Once they’re done, “IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT! IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT!” basically until puck drop.

After the goal announcement, there’s usually a “Big Cats Gotta Eat” chant as well.

OTHER GOALIE LIFTS HIS MASK IN FRONT OF STUDENT SECTION

“UGLY GOALIE!”

If UVM is attacking that end and our goalie takes his mask off, sometimes there will be a “SEXY GOALIE” chant.

UVM MISSES GOLDEN CHANCE OR OTHER GOALIE MAKES BIG SAVE (and, occasionally, after an opposing team goal)

“YOU GOT LUCKY”

UVM GOALIE MAKES GOOD SAVE(S)

“WE LOVE (insert tonight’s UVM goalie’s name here)” (so it’s usually “WE LOVE LEKKAS”)

OTHER TEAM CHANGES GOALIE

“BACKUP GOALIE”

CATAMOUNTS LEAD BY MULTIPLE GOALS LATE (< 3 min remaining)

“START THE BUSES”

LAST MINUTE OF PLAY IN THE PERIOD

“WE WANT FRIES” (Context: if the Catamounts score in the final minute of a period, all attendees receive free fries. Last year it was from Archie’s Grill in Shelburne, but in previous years it has been McDonald’s.)


And now for chants you’ll hear occasionally throughout the game:

“U V M”

“Go Cats Go”

One or two people: (other goalie’s name shouted in jeering fashion) Everyone else: “SUCKS!”

Sometimes other specialized chants will appear out of nowhere. Usually the crew starting the chant (which is usually, again, section 12) will tell everyone what we’re about to chant so people are aware. Feel free to pitch chant ideas at the game, too! (so long as they aren’t racist, homophobic, or anything of that nature…we can heckle the opposition without being a jerk).


Who are our rivals?

…We don’t really have any rivalries where the hatred is mutual in hockey (as our chief rival in other sports, Albany, does not have varsity hockey). The closest teams to us are Clarkson, St. Lawrence, and Dartmouth, all of whom are in a different conference now (UVM switched from the ECAC to Hockey East in 2004), and thus those rivalries kinda died off as a result. We don’t even play St. Lawrence this year, the first time since 1970/71, and when we do play Dartmouth it is often midweek. (The Clarkson game this year is over winter break, too, which doesn’t help.)

But for most students, it’s Boston University, Boston College, and New Hampshire. BU and BC are both teams we’ve played in high-stakes games in the last 10 years (BU at the ’09 Frozen Four and BC in the ’08 Hockey East championship game), and UVM has a lot of students from Massachusetts so there’s often family bragging rights on the line. As for UNH, they’re the closest Hockey East team to us, and the games between UVM and UNH are often very competitive and bring out a lot of UVM students. Loudest game of the year last year was the UVM/UNH game around Halloween that finished in a 4-4 tie. That said, all three of these teams have rivals they’d put ahead of us (BU and BC with each other plus Northeastern and UNH with Maine).


How can I stay connected with UVM hockey outside of the games?

Social media and the internet, obviously! The UVM team’s twitter is @UVMmhockey, and this blog commentates on games as well at @TheVTHockeyBlog.

While there is no specific subreddit for UVM hockey as its online presence is fairly small, Reddit’s college hockey community is /r/collegehockey. It’s a great community and probably the best place to talk college puck. The USCHO.com fan forum also exists, but that site tends to skew much older than Reddit, and thus I’d recommend Reddit more for students (and we have weekly trash talk threads and nightly game threads on there which are fun).

Recap: UVM (M) 5, #4 Michigan 2

I know the women’s game ended earlier, but I need this one up ASAP as an upset of this magnitude can’t be slept on.

I’m just going to go to my paragraph where I listed everything that needed to go right:

  • IF they can slow down one of the most talented players in the country

Check, but barely. Hughes was super active out there, but didn’t produce any points, and at times was pretty sloppy.

  • IF they can take advantage of the Maize and Blue’s departures and question marks up top

…Check? The Cats got slaughtered in the shot count, but the Wolverines’ only goals were on the power play.

  • IF they can get good goaltending from (almost certainly) Stefanos Lekkas

Five hundred million checks. That is, quite simply, one of the best goaltending performances I’ve ever seen. I’ve criticized Stef here before, but he was a legitimate superstar tonight. Hopefully the D can shore up a bit to not pepper him with so many shots on a constant basis.

  • IF they can get to Lavigne early somehow

Check. Two goals in the first five minutes by Alex Esposito. Coach Sneddon said midweek that he felt there was some nice chemistry between certain lines, and the ACE line (now with Coughlin replacing Colton) was really clicking tonight. Also liked that second line of Martin Frechette, Vlad Dzhioshvili, and Bryce Misley. Frechette and Dzhioshvili brought a lot of energy to the forecheck and combined nicely on the goal that iced it.

Let’s go goal-through-goal, and the first period was a goal bonanza.

Cats take the lead on the power play. Beautiful, crisp tic-tac-toe passing from Massie, O’Donnell, and the ACE line, complete with a good finish from Alex Esposito. (Also, how weird is it that the ACE line doesn’t have the guy literally named Ace?)

Second goal that same line, with Alvaro spinning to buy space, then setting up a bomb of a shot from Esposito from the top of the slot. Yost is stunned, and the only sounds are that of the cheering Catamounts.

Michigan wouldn’t go away, though, thanks to back-to-back power play goals. First shot was a bullet by Will Lockwood (who I identified as a potential threat pre-game), who used Carter Long (who otherwise played pretty well in my opinion) as a screen to beat Lekkas.

Their second goal was similar, but Lekkas actually made the initial save. But no human alive could stop Alex Pastujov’s rebound as Lekkas was down and out as he had to really stretch to make that first save. Uh oh. Yost is going off again. Michigan pressures and Lekkas transcends everything to be the God Mode Lekkas we sometimes get.

Catamounts would go ahead before the period was out. Matt O’Donnell was persistent, following his blocked first shot and getting off a clean one that Max Kaufman tipped late for a 3-2 UVM lead.

The second period was scoreless, so let’s head right to the third, where the Wolverines throw everything but the kitchen sink at Lekkas. Twenty-three shots come from the Maize and Blue. None beat him. Some do, granted, but they can’t beat the crossbar.

And then UVM grabs a late insurance goal against the run of play.

Michigan tries a no-look offensive zone pass. Frechette intercepts it. Banks a pass off the boards. Dzhioshvili latches onto it. Luke Martin pressures him, so Dzhioshvili backhands a pass as a release valve, finding Frechette, who peels off Nicholas Boka’s shoulder and fires home past Lavigne. 5,669 fans, clad in Maize and Blue, who expected an easy win, sit stunned. They’re about to lose to a team that won ten games last season.

And then Max Kaufman sticks in the dagger with his second of the game from his own zone into an empty net. Wow, wow, WOW.

Were there kinks in this game? Of course there were – UVM was killed in the shot count, took too many penalties, and at times the PK was a bit too aggressive. But for just one night, I’m going to say “screw that” and just enjoy the dang moment.

When we beat Michigan two years ago, it was hyped, sure, but most people agreed Michigan was overrated at the time and were proven right as they had a (by their standards) dismal season.  This time feels different. Michigan were expected to be national title contenders, and just had their home opener and homecoming ruined by some green and gold lads who weren’t even projected to be in their conference tournament.

 

Men’s Preview: UVM @ #4 Michigan

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Photo: University Photographers’ Association of America

Gee, that wild card game last night really destroyed my soul, at least there’s UVM hockey this weekend…

sees men’s preseason Hockey East polls and my opinion, sees we’re probably gonna suck, turns to national polls, sees we’re playing a top 5 team

Oh.

Live look in on me:

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This is from an absolutely fantastic Pokemon fangame, by the way.

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Hockey East Previews: Boston College

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TIME TO GET HYPE FOR THE SEASON!

We’ll be cranking out these previews once a week with the occasional second one thrown in, as we want everything to be up by the time the puck drops.  (Turns out I’ve abandoned that and am just cranking these out rapid-fire style just to get them done.) They’ll be done in reverse order of the men’s standings.

Today we do the FINAL ONE! We’ll be talking about the Boston College Eagles, who won the regular seasons on both sides last year, but managed to bottle the tournament both times. Can the men return to the NCAA tournament after two years out? And can the women finally get over the hump and grab that elusive national title?

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Hockey East Previews: Northeastern

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TIME TO GET HYPE FOR THE SEASON!

We’ll be cranking out these previews once a week with the occasional second one thrown in, as we want everything to be up by the time the puck drops.  (Turns out I’ve abandoned that and am just cranking these out rapid-fire style just to get them done.) They’ll be done in reverse order of the men’s standings.

Today we look at the Northeastern Huskies, who had a dream season on both sides last season. With many key players graduating, how will the men replace them? And how can the women follow up on their Hockey East title run?

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Hockey East Previews: Providence

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TIME TO GET HYPE FOR THE SEASON!

We’ll be cranking out these previews once a week with the occasional second one thrown in, as we want everything to be up by the time the puck drops.  (Turns out I’ve abandoned that and am just cranking these out rapid-fire style just to get them done.) They’ll be done in reverse order of the men’s standings.

Today we look at the Providence Friars, whose men’s team was the closest Hockey East team to the Frozen Four. Can they get over the hump and into Buffalo this year? And how will the women adjust with a new head coach?

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Hockey East Previews: Boston University

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TIME TO GET HYPE FOR THE SEASON!

We’ll be cranking out these previews once a week with the occasional second one thrown in, as we want everything to be up by the time the puck drops. They’ll be done in reverse order of the men’s standings.

Today we look at the BU Terriers, the second team in Hockey East with a new men’s coach. How will Albie O’Connell differ from David Quinn? And can the women replace the sheer scoring of their two departed stars?

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