January 13, 2005
Green Mountain Boys
Weekend sweep indicative of Vermont turnaround

By Joe Gladziszewski

 ECACHL Notebook

Blank you very much: Travis Russell made 16 saves in UVM's 3-0 shutout of Rensselaer Saturday.

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The bus ride back to Burlington must have seemed shorter this year for the Vermont Catamounts. Vermont visited Union and Rensselaer last weekend and left town with two wins, each by shutout, and found themselves in first place in the ECAC Hockey League. And there were plenty of smiles to be had.

That’s an entirely different situation than Vermont faced after last season’s trip to the Capital District. In November of 2003, the Catamounts were blasted 7-1 by Rensselaer and then blown out by Union 5-1. Vermont was in the midst of a 13-game winless streak.

“Last year we probably hit rock-bottom after this weekend,” coach Kevin Sneddon

It’s a good point of reflection to see just how much things have changed this year for Vermont. No longer are the Catamounts mired near the bottom of the standings and viewed as a probable “two-pointer” opposite travel partner Dartmouth. They’ve assumed the role of favorite and there’s a much different attitude around the team. Sneddon’s staff had implemented successful systems that the players are responding to. Confidence and camaraderie are high.

“Our work ethic and commitment is better. We’re all on the same page. There are no superstars, we just play well as a team. They love playing together and love being together,” Sneddon said. “Winning helps that, but I just think it’s a strong family and good things can happen when you have that kind of mentality in your locker room.”

Vermont’s Jaime Sifers, the defensive leader and captain of the Catamounts, talked about players believing in each other.

“I think we just grasp the systems better and we have so much more trust in one another. There’s so much trust around that locker room,” he said.

He deserves a great deal of the credit for the team’s togetherness, as Sneddon called him “the best captain I’ve ever seen.” Sifers and the Catamounts aren’t taking their first-place standing or spot in the national rankings for granted. They’re hoping that last weekend’s trip to the Albany area won’t be the last, knowing that a return trip comes with advancement to the ECACHL Championship weekend.

“Just like we approach games, we try to take things one by one. Albany is definitely in our thoughts and in our dreams every night,” Sifers said. “With a team like this it would be a disappointment if we didn’t make it to Albany. Game-by-game and shift-by-shift if we work 110 percent all the time and be consistent that dream will come true.”


Calling California – Residents of Pomona or Riverside, Calif. wouldn’t blink an eye at the numbers 9-0-9 in sequence. It’s their area code. It’s also the reading in Dartmouth’s goals-scored column over the last three games. The Big Green exploded for nine goals in a blowout of Rensselaer and then got blanked by Union’s Kris Mayotte the following night. On Wednesday, Dartmouth scored nine again and needed every one of them in a 9-8 win over New Hampshire.

That win over UNH at Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena was the latest in a series of good wins for the Big Green, a team that’s starting to show some signs of playing at the level that people expected in the preseason.

Dartmouth is now 7-7-2 overall and has recent wins over UNH and Vermont.
Freshman goaltender Mike Devine saw his first action of the season after both Dan Yacey and Sean Samuel were pulled. He made five saves and allowed two goals, but it was enough to win.

Chasing consistency – In this space last week we talked about an unselfish Union team that’s been successful by looking out for teammates. Those attributes of Union hockey weren’t on display last Friday, when the Dutchmen were outworked and dominated by Vermont. If not for the spectacular performance by freshman goaltender Justin Mrazek, the score would have been much worse than 4-0.

“We were getting to be individuals and decided to do things one-on-one instead of making simple plays. It definitely caught up with us and made us look silly. It’s a team game and if you don’t use your teammates it will be a rough night,” Union coach Nate Leaman said.

“We’re still a young team in a lot of areas and we’re still learning. We’re a program that doesn’t know how to win consistently and as a coach you’re trying to show them the things that do make winning teams and the ways to go if you want to win, if you want to pay the price.”

The lessons were put to use one night later when Union blanked Dartmouth 1-0 behind Kris Mayotte’s 32-save shutout.

Great Weekend Getaway
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Cornell at Union (Fri.)
Colgate at Union, (Sat.)
Union has played two more league games than Cornell and Colgate, but all three teams are tightly bunched in the standings. By winning these games, the Dutchmen can increase their point total in the standings and give themselves some breathing room when the Big Red and Raiders make up those games-in-hand.

While You’re There: After Saturday’s game, head across campus to the Old Chapel, where a psychic fair is being held from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. Fortune tellers and mind readers will be on hand and could forecast just how your team will do over the last two months of the season.

Stick Salute

An improved non-conference record by ECACHL teams helps in computer rankings and in turn helps the conference get stronger consideration when the NCAA Tournament field is chosen at the end of the year. In the first year of the Commissioner’s Cup, a series of 21 games between teams from each of the Division I hockey conferences, the ECACHL finished first with a record of 6-1-0.

Bench Minor

The public address announcer at Union’s Messa Rink handled the pre-game festivities pretty well, with the exception of one pronunciation. Dutchmen goaltender Justin Mrazek hails from Regina, Saskatchewan and might have done a double take when his hometown was announced as Re-gee-na.


St. Lawrence is enjoying a four-game win streak heading into this weekend’s game at arch-rival Clarkson. The Saints got a seven-point weekend out of Stace Page as they swept Yale and Princeton. It’s St. Lawrence’s longest winning streak since the 2000-01 season.

Brown senior goaltender Scott Rowan returned to the nets and earned a 5-2 win over American International on Wednesday at Meehan Auditorium. Rowan allowed two power-play goals and made 29 saves. It was his first start since Nov. 12 against Princeton.

• Vermont’s Jaime Sifers provided the humorous moment of the post-game interview following last Friday’s win over Union. When finding out that RPI (Vermont’s Saturday opponent) was beaten by the lopsided score of 9-1, Sifers said, “9-1? Wow. I guess that means they’ll be hungry tomorrow night!”

Mayotte’s shutout streak stands at 141:46. The Union College and ECACHL record was set by Trevor Koenig in 1996-97, at 198:44.

• Colgate’s record is impressive at 15-5-0, but the win over Harvard last Friday was the Raiders’ first this season against a ranked opponent.

• Yale’s 1-0 loss to second-ranked Boston College on Tuesday came on the heels of a win over Clarkson and is an indication that the Bulldogs are going to a better team in the second semester. Goaltender Matt Modelski made 49 saves against the Eagles.

• UVM’s back-to-back shutouts were the first in the program’s Division I history, which began with the 1974-75 season.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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