Women’s Preview: UVM @ Dartmouth

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Photo: Dartmouth Women’s Ice Hockey (Facebook)

First of all: My sincerest apologies for the lack of pieces in the last two weeks. I had midterms two weeks ago and last week was at a protest on Monday that left me devoid of energy for the week.

And now the schedulemakers continue their work on making UVM women’s schedule as weird as possible as, for the second straight Tuesday, the Catamounts will play, making the quick trip to Hanover to battle the Dartmouth Big Green.

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Women’s Preview: Quinnipiac @ UVM (2x)

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Photo: Quinnipiac Athletics

So apologies that this one might feel rushed – I’ve got a million things going on, including the men’s game tonight. (Gotta leave early due to this god-awful weather and now being on Trinity and not Athletic…)

But the women play two games this weekend against Quinnipiac, a team that dominated the Catamounts in a sweep last season. But it looks a bit more even this year. Why? Read on…

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Ten Reasons to Follow UVM Women’s Hockey This Year

With women’s hockey’s regular season opening up tomorrow, here’s a list of ten reasons why you, a UVM hockey fan, should come to the Gut and catch some woho games.

1. Program on the Upswing

For much of its existence, UVM women’s hockey was a punch line. It was not out of the ordinary for this team to win fewer than five games. But in the Plumer era the team has finished with three 15-win seasons (which, given that UVM only had one TEN-win season before him, is pretty solid progress), and even in a down year like last season the team upset both Clarkson and Minnesota.

You can see this progress at the pro level as well; in the last couple years UVM has gone from only two or three top-level pros (Sarah Campbell and Chelsea Furlani in Europe and Amanda Pelkey in the NWHL) to several (Gina Repaci, Mackenzie MacNeil, Taylor Willard, Rachael Ade, and Madison Litchfield have all gone pro over the last two seasons). Oh yeah, and Amanda Pelkey kinda won a small thing in February.

2. Global Talent

Just going off UVM’s roster, you have five players with at least some degree of senior international experience (Sini Karjalainen and Saana Valkama for Finland, Theresa Schafzahl from Austria, and Czechia’s Sammy Kolowrat and Blanka Škodová), and that doesn’t even include the other players around Hockey East and the nation that show up to face the Catamounts this season.

Also should include that Ève-Audrey Picard has been a part of Canada’s development squad the last few years and played for the Canadian U18 team, while Alyssa Gorecki represented the US at the U18 level as well. Several other players have at least been in national team camps.

3. There’s No Better Time

The hype and potential for WoHo right now is through the roof (see: NWHL expansion team Minnesota Whitecaps selling out their first weekend of games) after an amazing Olympics that culminated in another epic edition of the USA/Canada WoHo rivalry that culminated in an epic shootout between the sport’s two titans. Heck, some of these Olympians will even be coming to Gutterson this year!

Catch the wave!

4. Inexpensive

Burlington’s an expensive place to live, let’s be real. If you want to get your hockey fix, but don’t want to pay the price for men’s hockey, women’s hockey is perfect – it’s just $5 for adults and $3 for kids under 17, and you will still get a fantastic product. Think about it this way: for a family of four, that is just $16 for a high-quality hockey game. Throw in parking prices (which I do not know as I walk to games) and food and you’re still saving a lot of money. (For students: it’s free as all sporting events are, you do not need a ticket unless it’s Pack the Gut, just show your CatCard at the door.)

5. Great Role Models

From my experience as well as hearing what people have to say, there’s nothing but good things to say about the people that make up this program. On the ice, let’s take it right from the horse’s mouth with a quote by Alyssa Gorecki from a USCHO piece written by Nicole Haase: “Yes, we might play more skilled teams, but they will never outwork us.” That’s the attitude this team has – they will always give 110%. And off the ice, they are some of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with. They’re the kind of people that I don’t just root for because they represent my school, but because they’re people you want to see succeed.

6. A Different Style

With no body checking, women’s hockey turns into quite a different game than men’s hockey. It’s still physical, board battles in particular tend to be important, but it becomes a more skill-and-tactical style of play. I’m not sure about you, but I honestly prefer this style; I’d rather see a beautiful passing combination or dangle than see huge hits.

7. Family-Friendly

I’m not gonna mince words, the UVM student section at men’s hockey can be very vulgar. (As one of the most vocal voices there, I try to keep things fairly clean, I’ll do a BS chant but not much worse than that). But at women’s hockey, there’s very few students, so you get a bit more of a laid-back atmosphere where the few people there are largely encouraging their team instead of heckling the other.

8. A Challenging Schedule

UVM’s out of conference schedule is challenging once again. It’s not quite the gauntlet of last year, when the Cats had to visit Minnesota and Quinnipiac and play Clarkson, but UVM will face either a very-good St. Lawrence or an elite Minnesota at the Windjammer Classic, as well as a strong Quinnipiac team early in the season (don’t let getting swept by Ohio State at home fool you; the Buckeyes are a great team and Q was pretty solid on the series). That’s doesn’t even include a Hockey East conference that is getting better every year and has strong programs like BC and Northeastern. Speaking of that Windjammer Classic that I mentioned earlier…

9. One of College WoHo’s Premier Tournaments

The Windjammer Classic only started a couple years ago, but it’s already arguably one of the best in-season tournaments in women’s college hockey. This year’s field features arguably the gold standard in college women’s hockey in Minnesota, a very good St. Lawrence program, and a pretty solid Syracuse team. Last year’s had national runners-up Colgate, and the 2016 edition had national champs Clarkson and a perennial CHA power in Robert Morris. Seriously, if you have time over Thanksgiving weekend and you’re in Burlington, go. There’s some excellent hockey on display.

10. It’s Hockey

Need I say more? If you’re here, chances are you love this sport, so you won’t say no to a little more 😉

Recap: UVM (W) 3, McGill 2

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Consider the puck dropped on the 2018/19 UVM hockey season!

And a pretty fun way to start too. McGill is always a pretty tough opponent for a preseason game (and started their USports season with four wins on the bounce including three shutouts), and this year was no exception.

The Martlets opened the scoring about six minutes into this one, and it came via the power play. Kate Devries placed that shot perfectly, ripping a one-timer top-shelf over the glove of Melissa Black to give McGill the lead.

But UVM were able to respond before the period was out. Saana Valkama took a shot from the high slot that hit something before beating Tricia Deguire. It looks like that “something” was a McGill defender, but give Kristina Shanahan credit too on providing good net-front traffic.

Second period means a goalie change, and freshman Blanka Škodová took to the pipes for her college debut and pitched the lone shutout period on the afternoon. The Catamounts went ahead early in the period, as freshman Theresa Schafzahl made her first contribution, setting up a bomb of a shot from Shanahan from the slot.

The third period means another goalie change, as Sierra Natzke got to close this one. Early in the third, McGill got the game tied up again. Jade Downie-Landry with a sweet move to beat Anna Erickson, setting up a two-on-one with Lea Dumais, who tapped home a great feed from Downie-Landry to tie it up.

Midway through the period, UVM would take the lead for good, and it was a case where a bounce went the right way. Abby Cleary tried to send one cross-ice, but it deflected off a McGill defender…right to Sammy Kolowrat, who blasted one past Deguire with Shanahan again being a nuisance in front of the net.

So that’s the scoring summary. Some other thoughts:

  • The preseason exhibition isn’t about winning or losing, but chemistry, cohesion, adapting to play style, and getting up to game speed. So the win, while nice, isn’t really a priority.
  • That said, I really liked that Cleary-Shanahan-Valkama line. Adding an impact freshman like Schafzahl to the top line will help spread the scoring around, I think.
  • The goaltending battle will be interesting. I think Natzke earned some starts with her third period play.
  • Sammy Kolowrat looked amazing. She looked faster than ever, and I think her veteran presence will help Maude Poulin-Labelle on that top pairing.
  • Speaking of the blueline, for how young it was, it looked pretty dang solid. I think Anna Erickson will fit better there than she did at forward.
  • Again, this is just preseason, so try not to overreact even if I may be doing so. The real stuff starts next weekend against a UConn team that’s already played two games.
  • Given how many times UVM was outshot last year, though, it’s nice to have outshot someone right out of the gate, especially a pretty good team like McGill.

The Vermont Hockey Blog Three Stars of the Game

  1. Sammy Kolowrat (UVM) – She’s going to be massively important this year, and she started on the right foot, with a solid all-around game and a game-winning goal.
  2. Kristina Shanahan (UVM) – A goal, an assist, and a role in the one goal she didn’t point on. I think she’s primed for a jump this year.
  3. Saana Valkama (UVM) – Also had a goal, and was active all night. That line could be something with a little more end product.

Women’s Hockey Season Preview

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Photo: Pat Langlois/Vermont Cynic

It’s that time, folks.

Catamount hockey returns this weekend as UVM women’s hockey hosts the McGill Martlets for the annual exhibition game. The coaches’ poll is out, the teams are on the ice, and the energy of hockey season is here.

For UVM women’s hockey, it’s an interesting year, coming off an up-and-down 2017/18 season that had a few big upsets but also one lengthy winless funk. Let’s break this thing down.

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