Archive for October, 2009

Hockey Cats: What’s going on?

October 31, 2009

This can be guaranteed: The University of Vermont hockey team’s trip from Orono, Maine, Friday night/Saturday morning was not a pleasant one.

With all due credit to Merrimack a week ago and Maine on Friday, the Catamounts should not have lost these games, not if UVM wants to be considered a Hockey East contender.

At the least, Vermont should not have lost either game playing as poorly as it did.

The Catamounts need to take stock of their situation, from coaching staff to the seniors to those who fight just to get playing time. Nothing is working well after the victories over North Dakota and Boston College.

Even against BC, UVM was more fortunate than superior. The Eagles had the edge overall in play, though the Catamounts gradually took control and converted its chances.

Certainly head coach Kevin Sneddon has to resolve an ongoing concern: the play of the special teams. The power play has been inconsistent at best over the past couple of years and mostly inefffective this season. The penalty killing, once a hallmark of Catamount teams, has disolved into a rash of blown coverage and costly errors.

At this point, it’s a team-wide malaise and everyone associated with the program faces the challenge of hard-self appraisal and rededication to Catamount hockey. Be a blue-collar team in approach and play with the knowledge the speed and skill is there to make the difference at key points.

Next up is Lowell, the league favorite in the eyes of many observers. The Riverhawks will be fiesty, especially after their tough loss to Boston University. Any UVM performance resembling the Merrimack or Maine games will not only result in defeat but in humiliation before the hometown faithful.

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Lots to examine during Cats’ first preseason game

October 31, 2009

Here might be the best reason to head to Patrick Gym tomorrow afternoon to watch the UVM men’s basketball preseason game against Concordia: There aren’t many chances to see the Catamounts the next two months.

To be exact, there are only four opportunities to watch the Cats at home in November and December, and that includes two preseason games. Vermont has a a fan-unfriendly schedule this season, playing its opening 10 regular-season games on the road. So, fans will have to make the most out of tomorrow’s 1 p.m. game.

I’ll certainly head over to check it out, and while the final score is irrelevant, here’s a few things I’ll be paying attention to, in no particular order:

Nick Vier. With the graduation of star Mike Trimboli, who’s Vermont’s go-to point guard this season? Vier has all the tools to pick up the slack — tremendous quickness, good ball-handling skills, defensive tenacity — but the senior has been inconsistent and his decision making has been erratic. The Cats need him to be steady this season.

Marqus Blakely. We all know he can fly miles above the rim and can post-up anybody on Concordia with his eyes closed. We all know about his shot-blocking fury. We all know he’s America East’s best player. But will he mix in a few mid-range and short jumpers? In other words, has he gotten better? And who’s going to pat down Blakely during pre-game introductions now that Ryan Shields has graduated?

Evan Fjeld. Coach Mike Lonergan said the forward is poised for a breakout season. This scrimmage will give our first glimpse of whether he is going to be the player who fills the void left my the graduation of Colin McIntosh, a 1,000 point scorer.

— What’s the warm-up music this season?

Garvey Young. This is a player who had a fabulous freshman season, and it says here his statistics soar this season — especially since he’ll have many more plays run for him.

— The rookies. All four of them showed tremendous potential during the Catamount Tip-Off scrimmage. I’m most curious to see if Ben Crenca is going to be the go-to center this season. I’m also anxious to see the health of power forward Luke Apfeld, the Cats’ most-gifted newcomer who is recovering from knee surgery.

UVM women start preseason schedule today

October 31, 2009

After spending the last couple weeks practicing and scrimmaging against each other, players on the University of Vermont women’s basketball team get to take on their first opponent this afternoon.

Vermont will play play host to Laval University from Quebec in its first preseason game, which is scheduled to tip off  at 1 at Patrick Gym. Here’s UVM’s release previewing the contest.

Cadets, Panthers contrast on gridiron

October 30, 2009

Could two college football teams have much more different offense approaches than the two from Northern Vermont? With virtually every game they have played this fall, the contrasts between Middlebury and Norwich have stood out

The two teams are putting up similar scoring numbers, Middlebury averaging 29 points per game and Norwich, 25.4. But that’s where the similarities end.

After eight games, Norwich (5-3) and its cadre of runners (six have at least 200 rushing yards) have put up nearly 85 percent of their 343 yards per game of the ground. The Cadets average nearly 52 runs per game, and in their five Eastern Collegiate Football Conference games, they have passed the ball more than eight times only once.

Meanwhile, behind the record-setting arm of Donald McKillop, Middlebury (2-3) is producing 82 percent of its yardage through the air — to the tune of 373 passing yards per game. The Panthers throw the ball 54 times per game.

Perhaps the best way to summarize the difference? In seven appearances, Norwich starting quarterback Kris Sabourin is 24-for-81 passing for 275 yards; McKillop completed 47 of 74 passes for 438 yards — in Middlebury’s 20-10 loss to Amherst alone.

One thing the teams have in common is a tough game coming up Saturday. Norwich plays host to second-place SUNY-Maritime in a game that will likely decide the ECFC regular-season championship and Middlebury welcomes NESCAC leader Trinity (5-0), the team ranked No. 1 in New England.



Even higher praise for UVM hoops

October 29, 2009

UVM’s men’s basketball team trails only Boston University in the America East preseason coaches’ poll, a sentiment shared by several publications — except one.

The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com placed the Catamounts as the top dog in its America East preview.

Here’s a snippet from the Web site’s America East outlook: Vermont hasn’t won the past two America East titles, but, somehow, the road to that crown always seems to have to go through Burlington. It also has to go through Marqus Blakely. Yes, the 6-5 (and that may be a stretch) giant, is back, again. He’s a two-time conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. he will be missing sidekick Mike Trimboli and useful part Colin McIntosh, but this is a team that again has to be mentioned in the mix for the conference title.”

High praise for UVM hoops

October 28, 2009

The University of Vermont basketball teams will finish towards the top of the America East Conference standings, if the coaches’ predictions are accurate.

UVM’s women were picked first in the coaches’ preaseason poll for the second consecutive year while the Catamount men were tabbed second in the nine-team league. The America East revealed the polls during the league’s Media Day this afternoon in Hartford, which will be the site of this year’s league tournaments. Here’s the America East’s news release.

UVM’s women’s team, the defending America East champions, received five first-place votes and 61 points, edging Hartford (60). New Hampshire and Binghamton tied for third with 38 points apiece.

“It’s flattering to earn the top spot in the preseason poll an to be thought of this way by the other coaches,” UVM women’s coach Sharon Dawley said in a news release. “It was a thrill to win the championship last season, but it is time to put last season behind us. We will work hard and use the experience we gained to help  us get the same result.”

The Catamount men grabbed 56 points and one first-place vote, finishing behind Boston University, which took 64 points and eight first-place votes. Albany (43 points), Stony Brook (42) and New Hampshire 39) round out the top five.

Vermont seniors Courtnay Pilypaitis and May Kotsopoulos landed on the all-conference team, as did Marqus Blakely, the men’s two-time defending player of the year and defensive player of the year.

Both UVM teams have preseason games at Patrick Gym this weekend, the women playing host to Laval on Saturday and the men facing Concordia on Sunday.

New guys show promise at Catamount Tip-Off

October 24, 2009

I stopped by the Catamount Tip-Off today, eager to scout this year’s University of Vermont basketball team during the preseason scrimmage — the newcomers, in particular.

The four freshmen on the Catamount men’s team look like they belong at the college level, a nice mix of athleticism and size that should help the Catamounts sooner rather than later.

Simeon Marsalis is a crafty, pass-first point guard, who will likely play behind Nick Vier and Joey Accaoui this winter but is  a player who gives the Cats depth. Forward Luke Apfeld is powerful, ultra-athletic, and is going to be a impact player as soon as he shakes the rust from spending the past year rehabbing a knee injury. Brendan Bald will be another crowd-pleaser, a player who isn’t shy about attacking the rim.

Based on the brief sample provided at Patrick Gym on Saturday, the player who seems most likely to get minutes right away was center Ben Crenca, a Rhode Islander who is every bit of his listed 6-foot-10, 260 pounds, and appears to have a nice touch in the paint.

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Joey Accaoui caught fire late and won the 3-point shooting contest, beating out Maurice Joseph, Kelli Hier and Courtnay Pilypaitis. Hier was the runner-up.

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Here’s a stunner: Marqus Blakely didn’t win the dunk contest. An even bigger shock: The victor was Pat Bergmann, a 6-foot-10 sophomore from Burlington who spent pretty much all of last season on the bench.

Bergmann faced Blakely in the championship round, and the former Rice Memorial standout put the preasure on Vermont’s human air show. Bergmann stood on the foul line, back to the basket, and bounced the ball hard off the floor, caromming it high off the backboard. He turned, elevated and flushed it home hard — perfect timing, perfect execution.  Blakely had an encore planned — letting teammate Evan Fjeld go up for a routine dunk, then in mid-air, catching the ball at the bottom of the net and attempting to tomahawk it homebut missed all three of his attempts.

Hoop Cats will offer sneak preview

October 23, 2009

Anxious to get a look at this season’s University of Vermont men’s and women’s basketball teams? Head to Patrick Gym on Saturday afternoon for the Catamount Tip-Off.

The sixth annual event will feature each team playing a 20-minute intrasquad scrimmage, followed by a 10-minute co-ed scrimmage. The players will also compete in 3-point shooting and dunk contests.

The basketball action starts at noon, following a pre-game pizza party at 11 a.m. Proceeds from the $5 admission will go to the Vermont Cancer Center. Here’s UVM’s official release on the Catamount Tip-Off, which talks about other promotions coinciding with the event.

Both teams play their first pre-season games the following weekend at Patrick Gym. The Catamount women’s will play host to Laval on Oct. 31 at 1 p.m.; the UVM men will welcome Concordia on Nov. 1 at 1 p.m.

Remember to follow me on  Twitter at johnfantino.

Where former players are

October 22, 2009

Ever wonder if and/or where some of the state’s former college hockey players are pursuing the sport?

It’s pretty easy to follow some, such as UVM’s Martin St. Louis and Tim Thomas, established NHL stars.

Others, like UVM’s Evan Stoflet or Norwich’s Nikita Kashirsky, might be a little more difficult to find.

A glance through league rosters show the following players have played at least one game so far for their teams (and there are undoubtedly more out there somewhere):

National Hockey League

Keith Aucoin (Norwich), Washington Capitals (recalled Thursday from the AHL’s Hershey Bears)

Torrey Mitchell (UVM), St. Jose Sharks

Patrick Sharp (UVM), Chicago Blackhawks

Martin St. Louis (UVM), Tampa Bay Lightning

Viktor Stalberg (UVM), Toronto Maple Leafs

Tim Thomas (UVM), Boston Bruins

American Hockey League

Ryan Gunderson (UVM), Houston Aeros

Jaime Sifers (UVM), Houston Aeros

Graham Mink (UVM), Rochester Americans

Joe Fallon (UVM), Rockford IceHogs

Dean Strong (UVM), Worcester Sharks

ECHL

Scott Mifsud (UVM), Gwinnett Gladiators

Rick Cleaver (Norwich), Kalamazoo Wings

Peter Lenes (UVM), Onario Reign

Nikita Kashirsky (Norwich), South Carolina Stingrays

Kenny MacAulay (UVM), Stockton Thunder

Evan Stoflet (UVM), Utah Grizzlies

International Hockey League

Phil Youngclaus (UVM), Dayton Gems

Matt Syroczynski (UVM), Fort Wayne Komets

Central Hockey League

Justin Quenneville (St.Michael’s), Corpus Christi Ice Rays

EUROPE

Brady Leisenring (UVM), Landshut Cannibals (Germany)

Kurtis McLean (Norwich), Lukka Rauma (Finland)

Martin Wilde (UVM), Bolzano HC (Italy)

Andreas Moberg (UVM), Landshut Cannibals (Germany)

Eric Perrin (UVM), Omsk Avasgard (Russia)

Win impresses UVM women’s hockey coach

October 21, 2009

It wasn’t the win itself that most impressed University of Vermont women’s hockey coach Tim Bothwell; rather, it was the manner in which the Catamounts defeated No. 4 Clarkson, 4-1, last weekend.

The victory was a milestone for UVM in that the Catamounts had never won a game in which the opponent was ranked that highly in the national polls.

Audio: Hear UVM women’s hockey coach Tim Bothwell talk about beating No. 4 Clarkson.

“They’re the highest ranked team, a very, very good team, so it was important for that reason,” Bothwell said this week, “but it’s important not even so much because we won but for the way we played and competed against them for two full games really.”

In other words, this wasn’t a fluke, a decision that in the past might have resulted solely because UVM’s goaltender had an outrageous game.

“I was so happy and impressed with the girls with the way we competed from the drop of the puck on Friday and generally speaking right through the whole weekend against a very good team and that’s a very, very good thing,” Bothwell said.

While goaltender Kristen Olychuck again excelled, Bothwell said the 3-1 Catamounts’ improvments are due to many players showing improvement.

“We have a whole bunch of players that are up significantly in terms of their play and contributions from last year,” he said. “You hope to see that as they go from freshmen to sophomores to juniors, but you don’t always see it. We’ve definitely seeing a big jump from six or seven players in terms of their confidence level, the way they’re competing, the way they’re executing … all kinds of things.”

Next up: Another national contender in Princeton on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. at Gutterson Fieldhouse.