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Vermont Preview

#10 Massachusetts Minutemen 8-2-0, (Hockey East 4-2-0 4th)
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#18 Vermont Catamounts 4-4-1, (Hockey East 3-3-1 T-5th)

Vermont Catamounts Official Site

It’s that time of year again, UMass and Vermont meet tonight in the annual Turkey Tuesday tilt. I love that these two old Division II ECAC rivals get together for this yearly tradition. Unfortunately I haven’t exactly loved the results the last few years as the Minutemen have dropped the last three of these holiday week contests. Over the past ten years UMass is 4-5-1 in the pre-Thanksgiving matchups. Add in the fact that UMass has to travel to Burlington where they’ve gone 1-3-1 over the past three seasons and this is certainly proving to be quite a test for the squad.

UVM currently sits at .500 both overall and in Hockey East, but they have yet to lose at the Gutt. They have done ok against top level teams, splitting a series with Denver and tying Lowell, but losses to Merrimack and Maine probably have some Catamount fans scratching their heads. UVM last played over a week ago when they split a series at Boston College by the scores of 1-7 and 3-2. Going into the season the biggest question mark was who would take over the scoring lost when Viktor Stalburg jumped to the Maple Leafs. I think the Catamounts are still waiting for that answer as they come in ranked 7th in the conference in scoring offense and sport the worst power play at just 12.2%.

While they haven’t had anyone step up and put the scoring load on their shoulders they have gotten some here and there from a number of players. Bayden Irwin and Justin Milo lead the team with 4 goals each while a half dozen other players also have more than one goal. Irwin is really the key as he’s leading the team in goals, assists and plus/minus. Wahsontiio Stacey is second to Irwin in team points with 7. Juniors Kevan Miller and Kyle Medvec have both performed well on defense. I think the biggest surprise for UVM so far this season has been their poor goaltending. Rob Madore looked to be the best freshman goaltender in the league last year (yeah, yeah, Millan won a title. How’s he doing now without that defense?) but now he finds himself at or near the bottom of the league in goals against and save percentage. His GAA of 3.73 is downright upsetting. (edit: it now appears Madore will not get the start tonight)

UMass is coming off a thrilling overtime win at #9 Yale and enjoy their first top ten ranking of the season.  If they want to win at the tough environment that is Gutterson Field House they’ll have to cut down on the mistakes that allowed Yale to stay in the game last Thursday.  UMass dominated play through most of the first two periods but the Elis were able to stick around and ultimately take the lead due to the Minutemen taking too many penalties and turning the puck over in their own zone.  Every time UMass had a little bit of momentum the whistle would blow and they’d find themselves shorthanded.  While UVM doesn’t have much of a power play it’s still important for UMass to have their best players on the ice.

The team continues to get production from all four lines, with three of them on the ice for the four goals last week.  I’m guessing Toot will keep the Syner/Carzo/Boehm line together as they clicked very well and led to a number of odd man rushes against Yale.  With Madore’s struggles so far this year it’ll be important to challenge him early and hopefully put one in the net to shake his confidence.

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Here are the UMass game notes for tonight.

The Republican talks about the impact of T.J. Syner’s return in the Yale game.

Here’s the preview from the Gazette.

Here’s the view of tonight’s matchup from the Burlington Free Press with the late news that Mike Spillane will probably be in net.

INCH mentions tonight’s game as one of the highlights of the holiday week’s schedule.

Rankings, shmankings says the Collegian preview.  The road trip continues in their notebook section.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to make the trip to tonight’s game but for those who do make sure to take a look at the Road Trip page for some suggestions on one of Hockey East’s best destinations.  I will however be Twittering updates.  Also, remember that with tonight’s hoops game going at the same time the hockey broadcast will be available only through the internet.

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UMass moved up to #9 in the most recent USA Today/USA Hockey poll.

James Marcou was named one of the Hockey East Top Performers for last week.  Marcou was also named the UMass Athlete of the Week.

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