Vermont Preview

Massachusetts Minutemen


Vermont Catamounts

(Apologies for a more abbreviated preview than I had planned but the incoming snow storm has changed my travel plans and I’m now leaving for Burlington ASAP.  Like as soon as I finish typing)

UMass comes into this pivotal weekend series with Vermont with a bit of momentum after a sweep of Lowell.  While it wasn’t exactly pretty, it was what was needed.  Vermont showed some signs of life last weekend with a split against Northeastern in Boston to pick up just their second conference win of the season.  Their only other win in Hockey East came back in mid-November against BC.  However, their split over the revitalized Huskies isn’t the news around campus today, it’s the loss of their leading scorer.

Wahsontiio Stacey, no longer motivated to play hockey, announced he is quitting the team but staying in school this week leaving the Catamounts having to replace someone who has scored over 1/5th of their total goals.  This will put a lot more pressure on sophomores Sebastian Stalberg and Chris McCarthy and senior Jack Downing.  Those three players have put up 5 goals each on the season compared with Stacey’s 9.  Talented freshman Connor Brickley is the only other Catamount to have more than two.  On paper the loss of Stacey is a devastating blow for a team scoring 2.1 goals a game, just barely above Lowell for last in the league.  Yet, stranger things have happened and riding emotion Vermont could find a way to turn this despair into motivation.

Defensively Vermont is in much better shape.  Rob Madore had one of the best weekends of his season stopping 70 of 73 shots against the Huskies and being named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week.  For the year he’s been able to battle back and get his goals against average below 3.00 and his save percentage above .900 recently.  He’ll likely be looking for revenge from when UMass scored four times against him in November. 

Looking back at that win over UVM before Thanksgiving that was really one of the first games where UMass really had their penalty kill working, holding the Catamounts off the board in their five attempts with the extra man.  UMass of course comes into the weekend on a great penalty kill streak and better overall penalty kill play going back to the trip to Wisconsin.  The power play has improved a bit as of late as well which is good considering Vermont’s penalty kill is dead last in the league at 75.2%.

What really turned things around in the win over Vermont was aggressive play.  UMass was outshot 13-5 in the first but came away with the game scoreless thanks to some outstanding goaltending by Paul Dainton.  In the second they came out with a very concerted effort on the forecheck, led by T.J. Syner’s play especially, and scored 3 goals in the first 8 minutes.  UMass also dominated in the faceoff circle that game, winning 38 and losing 24.  Rocco Carzo led the way winning 8 of his 11 opportunities. 

UMass must improve on their puck possession compared to what they displayed in that game.  In the end, despite an excellent second period, they were still outshot 45-25 on the game.  Obviously you can’t count on Dainton to make 44 saves, especially in the tough environment that is Gutterson Field House.  And, in what’s becoming a recurring theme, they have to stay out of the box.  It’s nice that they killed five UVM power plays, but it’s a lot easier to kill just two or three.  One guy I’d love to see have a big weekend is Mike Pereira.  Pereira scored 7 goals in the first 9 games of the season, including two in that Vermont game.  In the nine games since he has only scored one. 

This weekend is a big one.  Vermont is four points behind UMass and out of the playoffs as of now.  UMass is in 7th place and if they want to reach Northeastern, four points ahead, they need points desperately against the teams below them in the standings.  So the results of this weekend could be a springboard towards the middle of the league standings or a drag back towards the realm of no playoffs.  Let’s hope they don’t travel all that way just for the latter.

Beer The Triangle
I’ve been looking forward to this road trip all season.  I don’t know if there’s a state out there that gets me salivating more for their beer than Vermont.  And I’ve tried just about every brewery and brewpub there from the Mass state line to Quebec, from the extreme goodness of Rock Art to the hidden gem of the Bobcat Cafe.  In Burlington itself there are two brewpubs that I am planning on hitting.  Luckily, they’re mere feet from each other right downtown.  First is the Vermont Pub and Brewery, a typical brewpub catering to one and all.  They have a very nice patio which I doubt will see much action this weekend.  I’ve liked their Dog Bite Bitter in the past and their smoked porter comes very highly rated, but I’m looking to see what kind of winterish beers they currently have on tap.

Not too far away is American Flatbread which is the home to Zero Gravity Brewing.  I’ve only visited this place once before but have always vowed to return to have some more beer as well as the flatbreads which looked excellent but I didn’t try previously.  It’s been too long for me to remember exactly what I had, but I remember them being good.  Looks like they have a highly rated extra stout that I’ll be on the lookout for.  While in Burlington it’s also work keeping an eye out for Switchback, a locally brewed beer that is tough to find any further south than White River Junction.

The place that I will make sure to get to, games, snow, and time be damned, is The Alchemist.  This is one of my favorite brewpubs ever and maybe tops in all of New England.  It’s actually not in Burlington, but about a half hour south in Waterbury.  Waterbury is better known as the home to Ben & Jerrys, but who needs ice cream when you have beer this good.  Their Holy Cow IPA is one of the best on the East Coast and in looking at their website they have a host of saisons, imperial stouts, and porters to try.  I wonder how many growlers I can legally take across state lines?

Dick Baker looks back to when Brian Regan, subject of yesterday’s column,  faced off against some Catamount goaltender named Tim Thomas.

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  1. Adam

     /  January 20, 2011

    See you there!


  2. Jeff

     /  January 21, 2011

    From what I recall looking up kegs, you can transport 15 gallons.


  3. ABolduc

     /  January 21, 2011

    Nice post. As Burlington resident and fellow beer enthusiast I would also suggest the new “Blackback pub” right next the Alchemist. They carry beers from the new Hill Farmstead Brewery that has started to set a new standard for Vermont brews these days.


    • Thanks for the tip! I’ve heard good things about Hill Farmstead.


    • Had a couple Hill Farmstead at Farmhouse Tap. The Edward and Arthur. Both extremely good. Great addition to the Vermont brewers portfolio.


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