His Catamounts just completed a two-game sweep
of Boston College at Gutterson Fieldhouse, and the Vermont
junior had a fine weekend, himself, with two goals and two
Never mind that, however. Mitchell went up
to UVM coach Kevin Sneddon with a simple question.
"Hey, Coach," Mitchell said. "Back
to work on Monday, right?"
Forget the fact that Vermont hadn't beaten
Boston College since 1994, or that the Catamounts dropped
six in a row to the Eagles since entering Hockey East last
year. Forget that three of those losses were shutouts. Forget
BC swept UVM out of the conference tourney last season.
Forget it all, Mitchell thought, because it was time to
"I loved it," Sneddon said. "He's
got the team thinking in the right way. We learned some
valuable lessons the second half of last year when our team
lost a little bit of focus and it really came back to bite
us. This year, I think the team has done a great job of
just focusing on the task at hand. We've already left the
BC weekend behind us."
"I wanted to make sure we used the weekend
as a springboard," Mitchell said. "Get excited
about the weekend, but come Monday, be concentrated for
The sweep did a couple things for Vermont.
First, it vaulted the Catamounts into third place in the
league standings and kept them within an arm's length of
New Hampshire and Boston University.
More importantly, it served as UVM's loudest
proclamation to the rest of the league since its inception
last year. The Catamounts do indeed belong.
They certainly proved their worth last year
by finishing in a respectable sixth place – no small
task considering all that goes into adjusting to a new league.
But they didn't vault off the diving board
and make a huge splash into the deep end of the pool. Vermont
was 1-8-5 last year against Hockey East's Big Four –
UNH, BU, BC and Maine. It went 9-5-1 against the other five
The Catamounts were 2-4-0 against the Big
Four this season before sweeping Boston College. They beat
a struggling Terrier squad on Nov. 14. Eleven days later,
they knocked off Maine, but that marked the Black Bears'
third loss in a row. While both wins were still worth two
points in the league standings – and bonus points
are not given for degree of difficulty – Vermont still
didn't have that one huge weekend to fall back on.
"We've known all along what we're capable
of doing," Mitchell said. "We've competed with
Maine, BC, UNH and BU a lot in the past couple years, but
we never really made a statement in the league. It's nice
to get a couple wins at home against a good team."
Getting those demons wearing maroon and gold
sweaters out of their heads was huge for a confidence standpoint.
The thoughts of, "We're good, but …" have
vanished. Knowing they can break through Cory Schneider
should eliminate a few of those sleepless Burlington nights.
"We've had some mental blocks with that
team," Sneddon said. "We've had some difficult
times with Cory Schneider, who is an exceptionally good
goaltender. All week, we were trying to prepare our guys
for thinking in the right way – in the right frame
of mind – that we are good enough to beat this team
and that we are good enough to score on Cory Schneider."
"We tried to remind the team that they
really had our number in the past six games, but at the
same time, we knew a couple of those games could have gone
our way," Mitchell said. "We weren't too far off.
When we got ahead on Friday night, we knew we could beat
Mitchell, who was named Hockey East Player
of the Week for his four-point series, helped Vermont get
over the hump on the ice. His message to the coach –
and to the team – was to propel UVM off the ice. He
admitted they got distracted in the second half of last
year, and that's something he's working to prevent this
"When you have your most talented player
also be your hardest working player, you have instant leadership,"
Sneddon said of Mitchell. "He has always been that
guy. He is a great extension of the coaching staff, and
he has really emerged over the last three or four weeks
as a mature player."
Vermont's schedule down the stretch isn't
tremendously challenging, but the Cats do have a pair of
road trips to Boston University and Maine, a couple series
that will weigh heavily on the league standings. UVM now
fully believes without reservation that it can shake things
up against the top-tier of competition.
"We gained some confidence [last weekend],
and we believe that we belong just like everybody else in
the league," Sneddon said. "We're no longer the
new team in the league. We're just another team trying to
win a championship."
SEEN AND HEARD IN HOCKEY EAST
First for fourth-liner on first line:
New Hampshire freshman Peter LeBlanc wasn't asked to fill
the shoes of Jacob Micflikier. He just needed to manage
them for a bit.
Micflikier suffered a shoulder injury in the
Wildcats' win over Dartmouth on Jan. 13, and missed his
first game last Friday against UMass. Micflikier, who has
five goals and a team-high 21 assists, is listed as day-to-day,
but he probably won't see any action this weekend, either.
So, LeBlanc practiced with the first line
throughout the course of last week and has suited up with
Josh Ciocco and Brett Hemingway each of the last two games.
His first game up top couldn't have gone any better.
With UNH on an odd-man rush, Hemingway fired
a shot at UMass goalie Jon Quick from the right point. Quick
made the initial save, but the puck bounced wide off his
pad, hit LeBlanc's skate as he was falling down in the slot,
and caromed into the net.
Not a bad way to score your first career goal.
Even better, LeBlanc's tally served as the game-winner in
UNH's 5-1 victory over the Minutemen.
"That makes it that much more special,
but the first one is always nice," LeBlanc said. "With
Micflikier out, you can't go out there and try to fill his
shoes. He's a really good offensive player. I just tried
to do whatever I could to help the team win, make the line
successful and create some offensive chances."
LeBlanc also earned rave reviews from his
"He's a skilled player," UNH bench
boss Dick Umile said. "We used him on the third line
before when [Greg] Collins was hurt. He is someone who can
play in the top lines. He played very well, extremely well.
I'm not talking about the goal he got either. I'm talking
about how he played the puck, got it off the wall and made
some great plays. Peter played well."
Great Weekend Getaway
at BU (Fri.)
Even if the hockey doesn't turn out to be that good
– which we doubt will happen – Nathan
Gerbe and Eric Gryba will probably continue their
grudge match. The pair were often battling on the
ice Wednesday night, and three instances in particular
were especially entertaining.
While You’re There: BC hosts
Lowell on Saturday if you're sticking around, although
BU fans probably aren't too interested in that. If
you're looking for something to do around Agganis
on Friday night, though, check out Jillian's behind
the UNH fan who was spotted wearing his gratis Milwaukee
Frozen Four paper hockey helmet last
Friday in Durham. We took it up a notch at INCH World
Headquarters this week as far as planning for St.
Louis goes, but we don't forget our past – the
cold Wednesday night when those helmets made their
someone in the media refer to UNH coach Dick Umile
as "You-mile," it appears we need
a quick lesson in pronunciation. Apologies
to those of you have to sit through an algebra course
even though you've signed up for calculus. Say it
with me. "You-mill-ee." Next week, we'll
learn how to whistle in order to signify a line change.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• UNH goalie Kevin Regan picked up an
assist on Bobby Butler's goal Friday night. The helper may
have gone a bit unnoticed because Butler's play on the other
end of the ice was so spectacular. He toe-dragged UMass
defenseman Topher Bevis at the right point before beating
Jon Quick in a 5-1 Wildcat victory.
• Quick got back on his game the next
night, though. The sophomore netminder stopped 27 shots
to earn his first collegiate shutout, and the Minutemen
beat UNH to take the season series, 2-1. UMass is the only
Hockey East team that has beaten the Wildcats this season.
• BU has the nation's longest unbeaten
streak, at eight games (7-0-1), dating back to Dec. 30.
The Terriers have won 12 straight January games and are
13-0-1 in their last 14.
• Josh Soares found the back of the
net Saturday night to end Maine's scoreless drought at 160:13.
The Black Bears responded with a 3-0 win over Providence
after getting shut out twice in a row.
• Blaise MacDonald has played all 15
of his freshman this season at UMass Lowell.
• Lowell has not allowed a power-play
goal since Jan. 6 against Maine. Perhaps more impressive
is the young River Hawks have only had to kill 10 penalties
during that four-game stretch.
• UNH tied its best start in program
history by beating UMass Friday night. The 18-3-1 mark (before
the loss to the Minutemen Saturday) matched the efforts
of the 1999-2000 team. The Wildcats started 10-0-0 on the
road before that loss at the Mullins Center, which set a
• If anyone knows anything about bouncing
back from an injury, or in this case an emergency surgery,
it's Northeastern's Mike Morris. The senior had four assists
in his first game back from an appendectomy, he tied a career-high
with four assists in a 6-2 win over Lowell Friday night.
• Providence's Jon Rheault is tied for
the league lead with three short-handed goals, and he is
tied for second nationally. More importantly, all three
of those shorties have been game-winners.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Jeff Howe can be reached