The last couple of weeks have been tumultuous for the University of Vermont hockey team.
Included in the emotional rollercoaster were:
The benching and eventual dismissal of No. 2 scorer Justin Milo;
A weekend series with Merrimack in which UVM lost third-period leads in the final five minutes (tie) and final two minutes (loss) of regulation;
The one-game suspension of freshman forward Chris McCarthy for a match penalty vs. Merrimack;
The addition of Jay Anctil to an injury list that included one of UVM’s top scorers, Wahsontiio Stacey, and No. 2 goaltender, Mike Spillane;
The shifting of defenseman Josh Burrows to forward to bolster the depleted front ranks;
A valiant but one-point weekend at New Hampshire;
Finally, a plunge into ninth place in the Hockey East standings, one position out of a playoff berth.
Despite all this, plus five overtime games in seven games and a 1-3-4 record over the last eight games, the Catamounts say they are optimistic and feeling good going into this weekend’s series against Boston University at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
Asked last week how the Milo affair, as well as the injury toll, might be affecting team morale, head coach Kevin Sneddon said he wouldn’t respond directly.
However, he said, “I can just say right now that right now the energy on the team is very positive. Our guys understand that injuries are part of the game. Everybody’s gone through it in the league … That’s part of the cards that you’re dealt,” Sneddon said. “Our guys did a great job of playing through it last weekend; we had a suspension in Chris McCarthy the first night, a bunch of injuries, the dismissal of a player, a defenseman playing forward.
“Our guys did a great job of doing whatever they possibly could to help the team,” Sneddon said. “To me, that’s a good sign of character; that’s a good sign of moving forward. Now as we try to get some of these guys back, hopefully in the near future, we can set ourselves up for some good hockey down the stretch.”
Throughout the year, the Catamounts have had difficulty all getting on the same page at the same time. Perhaps the adversity of recent weeks has finally coalesced UVM into a team.
“You see it a lot with teams with injuries, with other things that are going on, guys kind of pull together,” captain Brian Roloff said. “I think you really could see that (Friday vs. UNH) with the fact that we gave up a goal 20 seconds, you think it could have crushed us, and we turned around and played a pretty solid week.”
Perhaps in a couple of weeks, if UVM does take five or six of the remaining eight points and gets to postseason, this will be remembered as the time when adversity forged a Catamount team.