Recap ▲ Vermont Comes Back To Defeat UMass 6-4

A night after perhaps their worst performance of the season the Massachusetts hockey team looked much better as they hosted the Vermont Catamounts.  UMass would play well enough to take a 4-2 lead into the final period.  However they ran out of gas late, gave up four third period goals, and ended up falling to UVM 6-4.  There were a number of positives to take away from the game, such as the offensive reemergence of Dennis Kravchenko and Austin Plevy as well as Nic Renyard’s performance in net.  However the team still cannot find a way to win and are now 1-12-0 in their last 13 games.  In addition John Micheletto is now winless in his last 8 games against his former team.



Preview ▲ UMass Begins Homestand With Games Against #4 Boston College, Vermont

Boston College Eagles 15-4-3 (8-1-3) Hockey East 2nd


Massachusetts Minutemen 7-12-4 (2-7-4) Hockey East T-8th

If the Massachusetts hockey team is going to make a run in the second half of the season it has to start now.  The Minutemen will not have to play a game outside of Western Mass until February 13th against Northeastern.  Friday’s game against 4th ranked Boston College kicks off a five game homestand, followed by a game against AIC at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, and then capped off with a return to the Mullins Center to face Northeastern.  We heard a lot earlier on in the season that the team was in need of a good homestretch to reverse their fortunes.  That hasn’t really happened as the team is just 2-5-1 at the Mullins Center.  But considering that the team plays three of its final four regular season games on the road, they desperately need to do well now if they’re to stay out of the bottom portion of the league standings.


Recap ▲ UMass Falls To Merrimack At Home, Salvages A Point With Late Heroics At UVM

The Massachusetts hockey team faced two very good defensive teams in Merrimack and Vermont this past weekend and struggled to get their talented offense going early on in both games.  The Minutemen did rally from multiple goal deficits in both of the contests.  But while their comeback was for naught at home on Friday against the Warriors, a heart-stopping third period in Vermont allowed UMass to at least gain a tie and a valuable road point on the weekend.


Preview ▲ Minutemen Host #14 Merrimack Friday, Travel To Vermont Sunday

Merrimack College Warriors 5-1-2 (1-1-2) Hockey East T-5th


Massachusetts Minutemen 6-2-1 (2-1-1) Hockey East 4th

The Massachusetts Minutemen will look to build off last weekend’s sweep of league foe UConn when they take on another couple Hockey East opponents.  Friday night they’ll host the surprising #14 Merrimack Warriors and then will take a day off before heading up to Burlington to take on the Vermont Catamounts for a Sunday afternoon affair.  A strong performance against a couple talented teams could result in UMass breaking into the national rankings.

The early season performance of the Minutemen have been a surprise around the league, but Merrimack’s early record has likely raised more eyebrows.  The Warriors were picked to finish 11th in the league, just ahead of the Minutemen.  They began their season with a home sweep versus Clarkson and St Lawrence.  Both of the North Country teams are improved this year and are currently ranked.  They followed that up with two ties in a home and home versus nearby rival and top ten ranked Lowell.  The next weekend they would beat Boston University but fall to UNH before sweeping an Atlantic Hockey road trip against Bentley and Canisius last weekend.

As the usually do, Merrimack is succeeding with a very good defense.  They are allowing a national low 23 shots on goal per game.  Only 1.75 of those shots are finding the back of the net, 7th best in the country.  Even a man down they’re doing well with a .929 penalty kill, 5th best in the country.  Key in that defensive play is sophomore goaltender Colin Delia, who has a .924 save percentage on the season and a 1.73 goals against average.

The Warriors are averaging 3.75 goals scored per game and are led offensively by senior Ben Bahe who leads them in both goals (4) and points (10).  The Warriors are only 7th among Hockey East teams in scoring, but that’s still good enough to be 21st nationally.  Of course the other player to watch out for on offense is Brett Snively who is coming off a strong freshman season with 2 goals and 8 points so far in the 8 Warrior games.  Merrimack does not represent much of a power play threat, converting just twice on 30 chances this season for a fourth worst 6.7% nationally.

Merrimack will be an interesting test for the Minutemen.  When you look at the teams that have let in the least amount of goals nationally you have Boston College first, Yale, tied for 5th, and Merrimack 7th.  UMass lost 7-0 against BC and 6-1 against Yale.  So far, against pretty good competition, the Warriors have been among the best in the country when it comes to defense and UMass has struggled against the best.  Will UMass continue to struggle against a team that executes as well defensively as Merrimack?  We’ll see.

The other thing to keep an eye on Friday is what happens to Austin Plevy.  The UMass freshman originally committed to play for Merrimack and Warrior coach Mark Dennehy.  He went as far as to enroll in the school, spend the summer working out with the team, and begin fall classes before reconsidering and leaving North Andover.  Plevy had a very good couple games last weekend against UConn, good enough to be named Hockey East Rookie of the Week.  Does playing against his would-be team serve as motivation or as distraction?  Are there hard feelings on the other side of the ice that could potentially put a target on Plevy’s back?  We’ll have to see if the Warriors have a message they want to convey to Plevy in his first game against them.

Massachusetts Minutemen 6-2-1 (2-1-1) Hockey East 4th


Vermont Catamounts 2-6-1 (1-2-1) Hockey East T-7th


On paper it looks like the Catamounts are having a pretty bad season with a 2-6-1 record.  But on closer inspection, maybe Vermont isn’t quite as bad as they appear at first glance.  Their 6 losses have come in the form of three weekend sweeps against very good opponents.  In Mid-October they dropped two games at home to then #3 Omaha.  The next weekend they hosted then #1 North Dakota and lost both.  And last weekend they played #4 Lowell at home and lost both of those games.  While the fans of Burlington have seen some of the best teams in the country this year at Gutterson, they haven’t seen any wins.  The two Catamount wins have come on the road, first at then #8 Minnesota and at hapless Northeastern.  The Cats will look for their first home win of the season this weekend, either Friday against UConn or Sunday versus Massachusetts.

Last year the Catamounts were one of the best defensive teams in the league, giving up the second least goals per game among Hockey East teams with 2.22.  They returned junior Mike Santaguida who saved .923 of shots last year and was third in goals against average.  Maybe it’s the level of competition he’s faced or maybe it’s something else but so far this season Santaguida has not been able to repeat last year’s performance.  He comes into the weekend with a .907 save percentage, 41st in the country (just ahead of Nic Renyard).  Vermont does boast an experienced defensive corps that includes the likes of Alexx Privitera, Rob Hamilton, and Yvan Pattyn.

Without a doubt Vermont’s biggest problem this season is that they’re just not scoring goals.  The Catamounts are scoring just 2.00 goals per game, 10th worst among DI teams nationally.  They do have some skilled offensive players to be aware of however.  Junior Mario Puskarich is averaging a point per game with 4 goals and 5 assists in 9 games.  The Privitera brothers both have six points apiece so far this season.  UMass commit turned BU commit turned Vermont freshman Liam Coughlin has four assists on the season thus far.

This is a tough Vermont team to read.  Their record is bad and their stats are skewed in the wrong direction.  But they’ve played some really tough competition.  Does this team have some fundamental flaws or have are they a product of who they’ve had to play?  My guess is the answer is somewhere in between.  Yes, the Catamounts have had an incredibly tough schedule having to play three top five teams across 6 games.  Yet, all of those games against top ranked teams were at home.  You would think a decent team would at least win one or two at home?  But they haven’t.  Is this a tough Vermont team?  I’m not sure.  But they’ll be hungry to prove themselves this weekend when they get a couple of unranked teams to the Gut.

Beer The Triangle

If you’re heading up to Burlington I highly recommend hitting a few places.  Zero Gravity Brewing that’s part of American Flatbread is a great place to go for food an beer.  Zero Gravity makes some really good german-style beers.  Farmhouse Tap & Grille is pricey, but has a lot of good beers you can’t get elsewhere, including a selection of Hill Farmstead usually.  And of course no trip is complete without stopping in Waterbury for a Heady Topper, preferably at the old Alchemist brewpub, now the Prohibition Pig.  There’s no better road trip for beer in Hockey East.

The game in Burlington on Sunday has changed from a 1pm start time to a 2pm start time due to Catamount soccer’s participation in the America East tournament.

Weekend preview from UMass Athletics.

The Collegian advocates for bigger student crowds for hockey going forward.

Ahead of his first home game as a Bruin tonight, Masslive/The Republican has a whole host of stories on Western Mass native Frank Vatrano.  There’s this piece on Vatrano’s undrafted status being a source of motivation.  There’s a really interesting story of Vatrano’s callup and his father sitting at the Canadian border desperately trying to get across to watch his son’s debut in Montreal.  And there’s this story on Vatrano’s connection with local institutions creating a big rooting interesting for East Longmeadow’s own.

Saturday Recap

Faced with an opportunity to put together a little win streak and take the weekend series from a struggling Vermont team, the UMass hockey team showed that the only thing consistent is their inconsistency.  Looking very much like the team that was swept by Providence just a couple weeks ago the Minutemen managed to generate 38 total shots but were pretty much shutdown by a freshman goaltender and a the defense in front of him.  Vermont came into the game with the worst penalty kill in the conference, stopping less than 80% of opponents chances but last night they were able to shutdown all six UMass power plays, limiting them to just six shots in over 10 minutes of power play time.

The 3-2 final score actually wasn’t really that close as the Catamounts opened up an early 2-0 lead that they were able to maintain until the final seconds when UMass scored with an extra attacker.  Goals were scored by Branden Gracel and Mike Pereira who continue to play well but last night they were the only players who were able finish.

That’s basically it as there’s not much more to delve into last night’s game.  The team had an excellent opportunity to distance themselves from the prospect of missing the playoffs and didn’t.  They also had a chance to gain ground on the Lowell River Hawks sitting in 6th place ahead of them and didn’t.  In fact with a tie and come from behind win by Lowell is now tied with Merrimack in 5th place, five points ahead of them.  Vermont meanwhile continues to be just behind the Minutemen while Northeastern and a suddenly hot Maine team are not far behind.  UMass had the chance to go up and play a bad Vermont team and gain four points.  That didn’t happen and now UMass will enter February, a month rarely kind of the program, with their chance of finishing any higher than 7th fading fast.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Branden Gracel
Gracel has not gone more than two games without registering a point all year. He’s currently 6th among Hockey East players in goals scored.

Republican game story.

Here’s the recap from the Burlington Free Press.

Better news on the alumni front.

Matt Irwin scored his first NHL goal.

Kevin Moore got to suit up for an ECHL game

Vermont Preview

Massachusetts Minutemen 8-11-2 (5-8-1) 7th Hockey East


Vermont Catamounts 6-12-4 (3-8-4) T-8th Hockey East

If the Massachusetts hockey team wants to make a real run at something this season, it probably needs to start this weekend.  The last few weeks have been thrilling, yet maddening for Minuteman fans.  At the end of December the team went up to the Ledyard Classic and took the title in the tournament which featured two top ten teams.  They then went out in their next set of games and promptly got swept in a home and home with Providence.  Following that disappointment the team seemed to have little chance against #2 Boston College at Conte Forum, a place they hadn’t won since 2007.  So of course they beat the Eagles handily 5-2.  And that brings us to this coming weekend and two games in Burlington.  This weekend offers the Minutemen a chance to define which of the recent performances were a fluke.  The losses to Providence or the upset of BC.

Personally I think to be taken seriously UMass needs to take three points from the struggling Catamounts.  It’s teams like this the team should be beating regularly, even if the games are away.  Aside from winning their own holiday tournament, the Cats have been pretty terrible.  And they currently find themselves on a four game losing streak which included a 4-2 loss last weekend to Penn State which is in its first year of transitioning to DI.

Among Hockey East teams Vermont finds itself near the bottom in most statistical categories.  Offensively they are 9th in the league in goals scored with 2.23 and their power play is only converting on 13.7% of chances.  Senior Chris McCarthy and sophomore Jacob Fallon are the two Cats the Minutemen will have to keep an eye on as they both have a half dozen goals apiece.  Four of Fallon’s scores have come on the power play, making him the only player on the team with more than one PPG.  Oft injured star junior Connor Brickley missed a dozen games so far this season but is back and has registered two assists in three games since returning.

Vermont is 9th in the league when it comes to goals against as well, giving up 3.18 per game.  Their penalty kill is dead last stopping only 79.8% of their opponents’ chances.  Freshman goaltender Brody Hoffman has started every game for his team and comes into the weekend series with a goals against average of 3.00 and a save percentage of .900.

Again, UMass needs to win these games.  They are coming off one of their best games of the year where they got solid goaltending, strong performances from their defensemen, and timely scoring.  An offensive star has emerged in the form of Branden Gracel.  Guys like Mike Pereira, Conor Sheary, and Darren Rowe have emerged from rough patches earlier in the season and are now putting up points regularly.   Their special teams have clicked as of late, especially the penalty kill which is 20 for 22 over the last five games.  UMass is on the up swing it would seem while Vermont is not.  This weekend is a huge opportunity to climb up the Hockey East standings and more importantly create some distance between themselves and being out of the playoffs.  Let’s see if the UMass team is strong enough mentally and physically to make the most of that opportunity.

Beer The Triangle
Unfortunately I won’t be making the trip up to one of my beer meccas, Burlington.  But for those who are make sure to check out the Road Trip page for suggestions on where to go (one addition would be The Farmhouse).  On the way up to Burlington make sure to stop off at the Alchemist Cannery in Waterbury and pick up a case or two of Heady Topper if they have any left.  Also if you’re looking for a place to stop along the way for lunch and some good beer, I recommend the Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier.  Hopefully they have a full supply of Lawson’s Finest Liquids and Hill Farmstead to drink.

The Republican preview focuses in on Coach Micheletto’s return to Vermont where he was a long time assistant.

Here’s a preview from the Catamount viewpoint.

The Collegian has their preview as well as an interesting look at Gracel and what motivates him.

CHN’s Joe Meloni had a piece talking about regular season upsets, like UMass’ over BC, are commonplace in Hockey East but rare once playoff time comes around.  Minuteman fans who have seen their team knock off top schools regularly but have experienced annual quarterfinal exits know this well.

Vermont Recap

Many of the circumstances that surrounded Sunday’s drubbing at the hands of Lowell existed last night as well.  You had a game being played on a day when the team usually does not have to worry about playing.  Due to that, the Mullins would be filled with a small, unenthusiastic crowd.  And they were playing a team that may be near the bottom of the standings that had some extra motivation.  For the Catamounts I think wanting to prove something to their former staff that now resides on the home bench at the Mullins Center was a motivator.  However, they were able to overcome all that and beat Vermont in convincing fashion in the annual holiday tradition game by a score of 3-1.

I won’t comment too extensively on the game since I was not able to make it out there, for good reason.  But I was able to watch the video stream of the game while listening to Brock and Adam (who I think are doing an excellent job so far in their new roles).  There are two main takeaways I think from last night’s game.  First, the team did another good job defensively after giving up a touchdown and two point conversion against Lowell.  I think a lot of this improved defense had to do with the return of Kevin Boyle and Mike Busillo.

It’s obvious that Boyle is the team’s number one goaltender and has given them nothing but solid, consistent play.  Boyle is statistically the second best goaltender in the league and save for injury or some kind of implosion there’s no reason he shouldn’t be in net every game.  Mike Busillo returned to the lineup and by all accounts played well.  He finished with a +2 rating and led the team with three blocked shots.  While it doesn’t always tell the story of defensive play, his +5 rating is tops on the team.

The other main takeaway is that it was the key players who UMass needs to rely on who stepped up offensively.  Branden Gracel had two goals.  Mike Pereira and Conor Sheary both had a couple nice assists to set up goals.  Pereira has now had six points in the last five games after going without any in his first five.  I also thought he played exceptionally well on defense last night, an area of his game he continues to focus on.  Sheary now has registered a point in eight of his last nine games.  While I hope we start seeing some more goal scoring from him, as he only has one on the season,  he has been able to make a positive impact on offense consistently.  The other goal was scored by Conor Allen who continues to be perhaps the top all around player for the Minutemen, given his contributions on offense and defense so far.  He’s currently 7th among the league defensemen in scoring.

Thanksgiving dinner should taste a little better for the players after last night.  Losing, or really even tying the Catamounts, would’ve made for a disastrous last five days.  The team needed a win after managing just a point against a struggling Maine team and then getting blasted by an underachieving Lowell team, and they got it.  With the win UMass now finds themselves tied for 5th place in Hockey East and just a point behind Providence for home ice.  That’s certainly something to be thankful for.

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Branden Gracel
Gracel’s two goal game last night was the first of his college career.  Both came due to hustle and heads up play.  His first came when he was pressing Vermont in the attacking zone and was able to jump on a puck and then skate in for the score.  On the second it was Mike Pereira who took the puck away from the Catamounts and made a great cross ice pass to a streaking Gracel.  Gracel also got things done in the faceoff circle, winning 15 of his 20 chances.

Last night’s highlights from UMass Athletics

The Gazette’s recap highlights the sequence where UMass was able to kill a 5 on 3 as the key play last night.  The penalty kill has improved nearly 10 points to 85% from where it finished last year.

Here’s the game story from the Republican.

The Collegian recap highlights the defensive and goaltending efforts.

UMass drops to #7 in the College Hockey News Hockey East power rankings.

Vermont Preview

Vermont Catamounts 2-4-2 (2-4-2) 6th Hockey East


Massachusetts Minutemen 3-5-1 (2-5-1) T-7th Hockey East

Only a chance for an abbreviated preview due to the odd scheduling of the last few days. However I think it’s safe to say that most fans are surprised that Vermont comes into the traditional Turkey Tuesday Tilt as the better team in the Hockey East standings than UMass. The Catamounts were not expected to do much, picked last in the conference by just about everyone. But they come into tomorrow’s game in 6th place gaining two wins and two ties in their 8 games so far.

The Catamounts six league points is only one less than what they accumulated all of last season. So far they’ve gained ties on the road with Lowell and Merrimack to go with home wins over Providence and Northeastern this past Sunday. It’s pretty easy to see the key to Vermont’s success so far. When they’ve been able to hold their opponents to two or less goals, they’ve won or tied. In all their losses their opponents have scored three goals or more. To help keep their opponents off the board UVM has gotten solid goaltending from freshman Brody Hoffman who has started all eight games for them. Thus far he has a 2.78 goals against average to go with a .910 save percentage.

Vermont is still struggling on offense though, putting just 1.88 goals per game in their opponents’ net. However UMass will have to keep an eye on their power play which is converting at a respectable 18.1% so far this season. Offensively Vermont is led by senior Chris McCarthy who has four goals to go with three assists this season. Junior forward Pete Massar is the only other Catamount with multiple goals with two.

For UMass the trick to winning is to show up and play like the game means something. Now I don’t want to diminish some of the factors affecting the team currently, like the wacky schedule and having players dealing with mid-season injuries. But there’s absolutely no excuse for what fans witnessed on Sunday. Tomorrow should be a battle of competing motivations. With a win Vermont perhaps could be looking to send a message to their former coaching staff; John Micheletto, Joey Gasparini, and John Gobeil. UMass on the other hand should look to send a message that Sunday was an embarrassing aberration that will not happen again. Last Friday UMass was ahead of three teams in the standings; Maine, Lowell, and Vermont. Just a few days later Maine has gained ground, Lowell is now tied with UMass in 7th place, and Vermont is actually ahead of UMass currently. A loss would be unspeakable at this stage of the season and would mean that the Minutemen will have garnered just one point against those three teams in the course of five days. I don’t like thinking of games in November as must-win, but tomorrow may just be that.

Beer The Triangle
Unfortunately between work and the horror that is Thanksgiving week traffic, there’s no way I can make it to Amherst in time to watch the game. That means I’ll be sitting at home, listening to Brock and Adam, and cracking open a beer. First up will likely be a Dogfish Head 90 Minute courtesy of legend Swampy.

First up, let’s put the nail in the coffin of last night.

The Republican’s Dick Baker has his game story.

College Hockey News has their takeaways.

Looking ahead to tomorrow we have the preview from the Gazette.

Micheletto is treating tomorrow’s matchup against his former team like any other game per the Republican.

Vermont is ready for familiar faces reads the headline of the Burlington Free Press’ preview.

Not surprisingly UMass is no longer receiving votes in the USCHO poll. They also got shutout of any awards or Top Performers in this week’s Hockey East honors.

T.J. Syner scored his first AHL goal.

Hockey East Preview: #10 Vermont Catamounts; Recruit Update

Hockey East Preview: #10 Vermont Catamounts

2011-12 Storyline: Catamounts end up in the conference cellar, gaining just three wins in Hockey East and six total

2012-13 Storyline: After a tumultuous offseason that saw UVM lose their leading scorer, best recruit, and most of their coaching staff, can they possibly finish anywhere but last?

Player To Watch: Connor Brickley

Player Missed Most: Sebastian Stalberg

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Jonathan Turk

Random Fact: New Catamount assistant coach Kyle Wallack was reportedly a front-runner to replace Blaise MacDonald in Amherst until Toot Cahoon stepped down, but ended up in Burlington after John Micheletto and Joey Gasparini moved on to UMass.

Beer The Triangle Favorite Local Brew: Hill Farmstead Edward is damn good but Alchemist Heady Topper is divine

It’s tough to say last season could’ve been any worse for the Catamounts as they won just six games total, finished out of the Hockey East playoffs by a mere 16 points, and managed to score a meager 2.15 goals a game. But then the offseason started and things continued to be rough for Vermont fans. First, junior Sebastian Stalberg left town, taking his team leading 12 goals and 19 assists with him. Then, prized incoming recruit Zemgus Girgensons signed with the Buffalo Sabres, the team who had earlier taken him 14th overall in the NHL Draft. And shortly after head coach Kevin Sneddon found himself having to replace two assistant coaches and a director of hockey operations as his former staff relocated to Amherst.

There will be a lot of weight on the shoulders of Kyle Reynolds and Connor Brickley to improve the woefully bad scoring this coming season. Reynolds had a solid freshman year, gaining double digits in both goals and assists. Brickley was on his way to a breakout season until he was injured during the World Junior Championships and ended up missing about a third of the season. Incoming freshmen Jonathan Turk, coming off a 30 goals season in the juniors in Alberta, and Michigan transfer Jacob Fallon will be looked upon to contribute right away.

Nick Bruneteau is the most experienced defenseman coming back, but it’ll be interested to see how NHL Draft picks Nick Luukko and and Michael Paliotta fare in their second season for the Cats. Paliotta was an everyday player last year while Luukko was giving the team solid minutes until he went down with injury at New Years. Even before Rob Madore’s graduation the goaltending situation was fluid for UVM. That’s the case again this year where senior John Vazzano will likely battle freshmen Billy Faust and Brody Hoffman. Both put up solid numbers in the Western Canada junior leagues.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Luckily for them, they can’t finish any lower

They’ll Finish Higher Because: Brickley morphs into an elite Hockey East forward and the coaching staff turnover results in a whole new approach to the scoring challenges

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
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10. Vermont Catamounts

In addition to our first season preview today, we also have our first recruit update, a weekly FTT feature ever Tuesday during the season.

Kenny Gillespie – RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM / 0
The Fall Classic will kick off the USHL season this week. Gillespie will look to build off a five goal and eight assist season last year with Omaha.

Mark Hamilton – D – Salisbury School Crimson Knights (NE Prep) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
Hamilton is due to return to Salisbury again this season. Prep hockey will start up at the end of November.

Mike Iovanna – RW/C – Malden Catholic Lancers (MA High School) – 2013
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
According to this post from ESPN Boston, it does sound like Iovanna will return to Malden Catholic this year.

Casey Miller – C – Kimball Union (NE Prep) – 2014
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts
It’s expected that Miller will return to KUA again after helping the Wildcats to a New England Prep championship last year.

Willy Smith – LW – Springfield Pics (EJHL) – 2014
1 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
Smith was kept off the scoresheet as the EJHL season got underway this past weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how he does this season where he’ll likely spend the entire time with the Pics’ EJHL team, no longer splitting time in the Empire league.

Merrimack’s new practice rink and other upgrades could help the area get an USHL franchise. I’d love to see the top American junior league expand to the northeast. It certainly would make my recruiting updates a little easier.

Preview: #7 Vermont; Scrimmage Details Set; Polls

Hockey East Preview: #7  Vermont Catamounts

2010-11 Storyline: Catamounts have a subpar season after making the NCAA tournament in the prior two years.

2011-12 Storyline: How far can Rob Madore lead Vermont in his final go-around?

Player To Watch: Rob Madore

Player Missed Most: Jack Downing

Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Mike Paliotta

Random Fact: Former Catamount Tim Thomas brought the Stanley Cup to Burlington for UVM fans to enjoy over the summer.

Usual Beer The Triangle Pre-game Spot: American Flatbread

Vermont had a tough season last year and could not make it three years in a row with an NCAA berth.  Though they had solid defense and a reliable goaltender in Rob Madore, they were unable to find the scoring they had seen in previous years when Viktor Stalberg was still wearing green.  This was complicated further when Wahsontiio Stacey was kicked off the team mid-season.  They should improve on offense with little brother Sebastian Stalberg developing into a fine forward and sophomore Connor Brickley on the verge of becoming a star in the conference.

Rob Madore starts his fourth year in net with the Catamounts and while his numbers have dropped off each year he’s played, he’ll likely be reliable in net.  However, he’s lost a lot of help in front of him with the graduation of guys like Kyle Medvec and Kevan Miller.  If the Cats don’t see some decided improvement from their younger defensemen and contribution from their talented but untested freshmen blueliners, Madore could be seeing a lot of rubber this season.

They’ll Finish Lower Because: Madore’s goals against average continues to increase at the 0.30 clip we’ve seen the last three years.

They’ll Finish Higher Because: The young forwards make a huge leap offensively.

Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
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6. Massachusetts Minutemen (preview upcoming)
7. Vermont Catamounts
8. Providence Friars
9. Northeastern Huskies
10. Lowell River Hawks

While UMass will not be having a true exhibition game this season, there will be an intrasquad scrimmage open to the public.  The scrimmage will take place at 4pm Saturday and will be followed by the annual Skate With The Minutemen event.  Seems like it’s been an unusually long offseason.  I can’t wait to see the team take the ice, even if they’ll only be facing each other.

UMass got 3 points in the USCHO pre-season poll, good for last of the “Also Receiving Votes” teams.

Tomorrow is Hockey East Media Day.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it this year, but I’ll definitely share my thoughts on the pre-season picks that come out of it tomorrow.

Paul Dainton is dressing tonight for the Bluejackets as they take on the Washington Capitals.

The conference shifting is not set yet.  Bowling Green is still weighing their options, one of which could include the University of Buffalo.  Meanwhile, Notre Dame has narrowed it down to either the NCHC or Hockey East.

Alabama Huntsville is still figuring out what it will take to continue on.