If you haven’t already made your
reservations, do so now. Go to your local hockey merchandiser
or jump on the information superhighway and get yourself
some green and gold. But do so quickly, because space
on Vermont’s bandwagon is limited as the Catamounts
have jumped out to a to a ferocious 4-0-0 start.
In just a couple October weeks, UVM
has transformed itself from being the new kid in Hockey
East to being the lone soldier without a loss on its
shoulders. Granted, the team has yet to play a conference
game, but it has earned its stripes by knocking off
a WCHA opponent in each of its four chances and a
6-0-2 record against the league in the last eight
meetings dating back to last year.
Following a weekend that saw the Catamounts
bring home bragging rights from the Nye Frontier Classic
in Alaska with victories over Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage,
they pounded Minnesota-Duluth – ranked No. 1
in the country at one point last year – in Burlington
with a pair of 5-1 decisions.
And they have hit on every phase of
the game to this point. The Catamounts are tied for
first in Hockey East with an average of four goals
per game, and ranked first in defense, allowing a
mere 1.25 goals per game. They top the conference
in power play percentage, converting on 26.9 percent
of their opportunities, and the penalty kill is ranked
third, only surrendering a single goal in 22 chances.
“The most important stat right
now is the five goals against,” Vermont coach
Kevin Sneddon said. “It shows me that the team
is focused on the right thing, and that is playing
great in our own zone. We’re getting good goaltending,
really good defensive play on our penalty kill, and
we’re blocking a lot of shots.”
The offense has been carried by its
two most dangerous veteran scorers in Brady Leisenring
(3-5—8) and Torrey Mitchell (1-7—8), but
they have received some much-welcomed help from freshman
Peter Lenes, who scored his first career goal over
the weekend and went on to score another three en
route to Hockey East Rookie of the Week honors after
his breakout series.
“You never know when they are
going to start to feel confident enough to find the
back of the net as freshmen, but we knew he had the
ability,” Sneddon said. “He is one of
the most skilled players I have ever coached. He has
tremendous hands, very good quickness and agility.
He is going to be an exciting player to watch for
four years. We didn’t know if he would break
out that early and, again, it’s one weekend,
but we know he has the ability to do it again at any
It helps that sophomore goalie Joe Fallon
picked up where he left off on his record-setting
freshman season. He has played in every minute of
every game, registering a league-best 1.24 goals-against
average and one shutout.
“We’ve come to expect it,
which isn’t really fair to him, but he makes
it look so simple back there,” Sneddon said.
“We’re playing pretty well in front of
him. He has had to make some key saves. He has been
very solid and looks like he is in midseason form
Up next for Vermont is a weekend road
trip to Niagara, a team that stormed through Burlington
last year and outplayed and out-hustled the Catamounts
to steal a pair of games. This is the last weekend
UVM can tune up its skills against non-conference
opponents before its Hockey East orientation on Nov.
1 at Northeastern, starting a string of nine straight
“There is just an incredible buzz
around athletics and around the school,” Sneddon
said. “There is a lot of energy, and it has
really spilled over in the community. I think we’ve
had more students at our games this weekend than we’ve
had in the past 10 years. It’s probably one
of the toughest tickets to get right now, and we’re
really appreciative of the support we’re getting.
“I really like our team speed,
our work ethic right now and the cohesiveness of the
team. Our leadership is as good as it’s ever
been, and if we can keep that going, I think these
guys can accomplish some great things this year.”
If you want to take Sneddon’s
word for it, go ahead and buy your UVM winter clothes
now, and you may be able to buy a championship T-shirt
when spring rolls around.
AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
Tough Three Minutes, Man –
UMass appeared to be closing in on a tough,
grind-it-out win against in-state rival Holy Cross
at the Mullins Center on Friday night, but the Minutemen
couldn’t escape what could eventually prove
to be the most frustrating three minutes they play
Trailing 2-1 with 3:29 left in regulation,
the Crusaders called a timeout. Just four seconds
later, they put the puck into the back of the net,
tied the game, completely shocking everyone in attendance.
Just 67 seconds later, Holy Cross took the lead on
a Kai Magnussen goal, closing out one of the most
dramatic turn of events in the young season to date.
“I think we were so caught off
guard by [the tying goal] that it stayed with us for
a minute or so, and that allowed them to have a play
develop only a minute or two later,” UMass coach
Don Cahoon said. “The next thing you know, [the
puck] is in the back of the net, and we’re totally
stunned. Trying to scramble to catch up at that time
was too little too late.”
Cahoon has been happy with the way his
team has responded in practice this week, but the
Minutemen can ill afford any type of hangover this
weekend as they entertain New Hampshire on Friday
night and Maine on Saturday.
Flying Low –
Ever since UMass Lowell exploded for four
unanswered goals in a span of 20:16 between the second
and third periods in a 5-3 win vs. Rensselaer on Oct.
9, the River Hawks have had a tough time getting their
offense off the ground.
The last time UML lit the lamp was on
a Jeremy Hall goal at the 9:59 mark of the first period
in the team’s 3-1 loss at Boston University
on Oct. 15. Since then, the River Hawks have gone
a school-record 170:01 without putting a dent on the
scoreboard. They were shut out twice over the weekend
by Providence, the second time in program history
they failed to score in back-to-back games.
In case you were wondering, and I know
you were, the other nine Hockey East teams put up
a combined 39 goals this past weekend.
Good news for Lowell, though. They get
another crack at BU on Friday night when the Terriers
make a visit to the Mill City. Whether Day 13 of the
scoreless streak will be unlucky or not for Lowell
on Halloween weekend remains to be seen.
Great Weekend Getaway
Hampshire at UMass (Fri.); Maine at UMass (Sat.) Since No. 5 Maine and No. 13
New Hampshire aren’t expected to cross
paths over the next few days, mediators shouldn’t
be in such high demand in Amherst this weekend.
Both, however, will be spending a couple hours
at the Mullins Center, as UMass plays host to
UNH Friday night before taking on the Black
Bears for a Saturday showdown.
While You’re There:
If you still haven’t satisfied your UMass/UNH
fix by Friday night, the No. 7 Minutemen are
hosting the No. 4 Wildcats at noon on Saturday
in a highly anticipated Division I-AA football
war. If you’d rather watch the game on
TV, go early and grab a table at The Hangar,
where you can work up a sweat with some world
Being named Hockey East Player
of the Week and HEA Defensive Player of the
Week are nice awards and all, but getting the
nod as INCH Player of the Week is something
to really brag about. Providence goalie Tyler
Sims recorded his first two career
shutouts by blanking Lowell twice over the weekend,
turning away all 43 shots he faced.
schedule makers weren’t
the most generous of folk when thinking about
the Friars. Forget that PC is in the middle
of nine straight Hockey East games early in
the year because its game on Saturday night
in Lowell kicked off a much less desirable streak.
The Friars only get to play in Rhode Island
a grand total of two times from Oct. 22 until
bringing in Maine on Dec. 2. That equals two
home games in 41 days.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• UNH head man Richard Umile announced
last week that the Wildcats have added a few non-conference
opponents to their future schedules. Colorado College
will visit Durham next season, UNH will travel to
North Dakota sometime in 2007-08, and Michigan is
likely to play a game at UNH in either 2007 or 2008.
the Terriers dropped a 3-2 decision to Rensselaer
Friday night, they kept their perfect penalty kill
alive. In eight shorthanded situations comprising
19 minutes, BU has only allowed five shots.
the first time in nearly 10 years, Northeastern’s
Matthews Arena attracted more than 5,000 fans on Friday
night. A crowd of 5,402 saw the Huskies skate to a
1-1 draw with intra-city rival Boston College, the
most people on hand since November of 1995.
the first time in the 11-year history of the Whittemore
Center, UNH failed to pick up a single win in its
first weekend at home after dropping a 3-2 decision
to North Dakota on Friday and tying the Sioux 3-3
though Maine was 3-1-0 heading into last weekend,
the Black Bears figured they would change things up
a bit during their home series with Alabama-Huntsville.
After starting off each of its first four games down
1-0, Maine scored first in both contests and still
managed to win both games.
UNH great Colin Hemingway made his NHL debut on Oct.
19 for the St. Louis Blues, who beat Anaheim 3-2.
Reigning Hockey East Player of the Year Patrick Eaves
made his Big Show debut a week prior to that for the
Ottawa Senators, skating on the same line as Daniel
Alfredsson and Bryan Smolinski.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation
of this report.