Archive for November, 2009

Play your role and you play the game

November 29, 2009

In an effort to get the University of Vermont hockey team back on track this week, coach Kevin Sneddon drove home his points with hard practices and lineup adjustments.

One game-time change featured the insertion of young defensemen Anders Franzon and Lance Herrington in place of two veterans.

Another included shuffling of lines, a situation exacerbated by the last minute unavailability of Wahs Stacey (day-to-day; non-specific injury).

The other move was a direct attempt to improve UVM’s woeful penalty killing, where the Catamounts’ 75.4 percent kill rate ties them for 51st out of 58 teams nationally.

Into the lineup went Brett Leonard, Jay Anctil and Jonathan Higgins, true role players.

“We wanted to get some of our veterans in the lineup from a penalty kill standpoint. We wanted to get Brett Leonard, Jay Anctil and Jon Higgins, guys who have worked the kill in practice a lot, sometimes on the mock penalty kill, and done a nice job,” Sneddon said Sunday.

“We just felt we needed those guys that we feel could get the job done. That was first and foremost on our minds: get some guys in that could kill penalties for us.

“We’re tired of seeing a 70 percent kill. We’ve got to be betgter than that. That really sparked the decision within the lineup,” said Sneddon, who said other line combinations were instituted because “we felt we needed to spread our talent around a litte bit, combine it with some grit. For the most part, it worked out pretty well.”

As for the penalty kill move, the Catamounts were 4-for-4, holding Northeastern scoreless man-up, a key factor in UVM’s 3-2 win.

The lesson: Know your role, play your role, and you get to play the game.





Recapping UVM’s long road trip

November 29, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — The University of Vermont men’s basketball team wrapped up play in the Legends Classic with an 82-49 pasting of Toledo today. The performance soothed the sting of prior losses this week to Drexel, Cornell and Providence.

UVM coach Mike Lonergan summed up the stretch — five games in eight days — in one very long breath during today’s press conference:

“We really needed a win to make sure we didn’t lose any confidence. Obviously we played great at Rutgers, and people will see Rutgers is a pretty good team. They beat UMass.

“But then we got drilled in Providence and played with no energy, no intensity, not a whole lot of effort; and Providence jumped all over us.

“Drexel is a tough team and we didn’t match their physicality, and shot poorly. We lost our composure in the first half and Marqus let the referees affect his game.

“Yesterday (against Cornell), I thought we played well early and just didn’t make shots. I was disappointed with the loss but I thought we played a lot better than we did the last two games.

“Today (against winless Toledo),  from start to finish we played defense. That was the key. … We didn’t let up. That team always comes back in the second half, no matter whether they are playing  Michigan State Drexel they cut it to 6. They always come back, and we kept  the intensity and put them away.”

Hockey at its finest

November 28, 2009

NHL, Division I college or Division III … it really doesn’t get much better than the show Plattsburgh State and Norwich University put on Saturday evening in the championship game of the Primelink Great Northern Shootout.

Sure, anyone can debate that Division III college hockey players can’t really be considered the equal of Division I players in terms of pure skill and talent, but that’s not the point.

The point of any athletic endeavor should be evenly matched teams or individuals playing to the best of their abilities in competitive circumstances while providing compelling entertainment.

 That’s what happened at Kreitzberg Arena on Saturday. A 1-1 game through five minutes of sudden death overtime and an enthralling, crowd-pleasing, extended shootout to determine a champion. Great team play, great individual play, great environment, great time.

This was fun to watch; it had to be fun to play (coaching might be an entirely different perspective).

The Cadets and the Cardinals will meet again, Jan. 5 on the same rink. That ought to be quite a game, too, one any real hockey fan at any level should enjoy.

Reserve your seat now.

No time to dwell on loss to Drexel

November 27, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — Here’s  the audio from UVM coach Mike Lonergan and senior guard Maurice Joseph during a press conference after the Catamounts suffered a 74-61  loss to Drexel this afternoon in the Legends Classic.

MoJo emphasized the Catamount guards were outplayed. Lonergan wasn’t happy about Maqus Blakely’s lack of composure in the first half or the team’s foul shooting in the second half. Here’s the box score.

“Drexel is a better team than us, that’s for sure,” Lonergan said. “They are tougher than us, that’s for darn sure.”

Drexel (2-3), a former America East school, has a 21-7 series lead over UVM.

Vermont doesn’t have time to dwell on the loss. It has to quickly get ready to play Cornell, the two-time defending Ivy League champion, on Saturday at 2 p.m. Cornell posted a 78-60 win over Toledo in Friday’s other game.

Cornell (3-2) had impressive wins over Alabama and Massachusetts before falling to a pair of Big East teams in Seton Hall and Syracuse. The Big Red have four players — Ryan Wittman (17.5), Chris Wroblewski (12.5), Jeff Foote (11.3) and Louis Dale (11) — averaging in double figures.

“We are confident that our offense is going to come,” Joseph said. “What we are worrying about is trying to rebound and defend better. We are not going to win on  the road missing free throws and having plays that show mental weakness.”

Joseph and Blakely have reached double-digit scoring in all five games this season.

Garvey Young will not play vs. Drexel (updated)

November 27, 2009

PHILADELPHIA — The University of Vermont men’s basketball team will be without starting guard Garvey Young for today’s game against Drexel. The sophomore has “a minor foot ailment,” said UVM head athletic trainer Allison Shepherd. Young’s status is day-to-day, she said.

It’s unclear who will start for Young today. I’ll try to find out when I get to the arena in about an hour.

Update: Freshman Brendan Bald, who scored a career-high 12 points in a blowout loss to Providence on Tuesday, will replace Young in the starting lineup.

UVM heads to Philly for 3 straight games

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, Catamount fans!

I’ve been out of town for the holidays, but I will rejoin the UVM men’s basketball team — and return to regular blog posts — this weekend in Philadelphia, just a few miles from my hometown in South Jersey.

The Catamounts are playing three straight games in the Philadelphia Subregional of the Legends Classic, which has a goofy format. The Cats beat Rutgers  on Sunday in the first round of the 12-team tournament, but instead of advancing to the championship round in Atlantic City, N.J., they — along with other mid major schools — have been funneled to Drexel University for three predetermined games.

Here’s a more detailed description of the tournament and the schedule of games.

Vermont opens against host Drexel on Friday at 4:30 p.m., plays defending Ivy League champion Cornell on Saturday and faces Toledo  on Sunday.

Drexel (1-3) is coming off a 58-49 victory over Penn. Drexel’s losses to St. Joseph’s, Niagara and Rutgers were decided by seven points or less. Junior guard Jamie Harris leads the team with 14.8 points per game while guards Gerald Colds and Derrick Thomas each average 11 points. The Dragons’ stingy defense has given up only 65 points a game; their offense, on the other hand, has produced an average of only 62.5 points.

Drexel, picked to finish seventh in the Colonial Athletic Association’s preseason poll, lost 58-56 at Rutgers, a Big East team Vermont beat 77-71 two days later.

Vermont lost 106-64 loss at Providence on Tuesday. The last time Vermont gave up more than 100 points in a game was in a 108-78 loss to Drexel in 1995.

UVM defensemen must step up

November 23, 2009

The bedrock of this year’s University of Vermont men’s hockey team is a veteran defense returning six starters.

In senior Patrick Cullity, juniors Kevan Miller, Kyle Medvec, Josh Burrows and Dan Lawson and sophomore Drew MacKenzie, the Catamounts boast a tourney-tested corps of big, tough, mobile defenders who can provide key hits and key goals.

Yet the group hasn’t jelled into the force it should be, can be and, from a Vermont perspective, must be for the Catamounts to be contenders in Hockey East and for a second consecutive NCAA berth.

“I don’t they’ve been great,” said head coach Kevin Sneddon on Monday. “We’ve had some players, we’re really had to reiterate their roles. For whatever reason — the hype going into the season, aspirations change — even though you have the same group of guys, some guys think they’ve got to be offensive-minded and it’s not their role.

“So you’re making sure your guys know what they need to do to give us shots at winning hockey games,” Sneddon said. “There have been some guys who just haven’t performed very well up to date.”

While some inconsistency should be expected from freshman Anders Franzon, the degree exhibited by others is surprising and it’s been across the board, though some have struggled more than others.

“It’s been one guy one night, a couple of guys the next night … It’s been a little bit of everybody,”  said Sneddon. “The three rocks back there right now have been Medvec, Cullity and Miller.

“It’s been more coverage and running around and not taking charge back there than anything. Our breakouts have been pretty good. We’ve had a few moments turning the puck over, not making the simple play, and that’s been working itself out of our game right now. It’s mainly been poor coverage or two guys playing the same guy and leaving somebody open … things you would expect out of a young defensive corps, not a veteran corps.”

With a longer and harder week of practice, Sneddon said, “We’re seeing improvement back there.”

It’s certainly what UVM needs and what this corps of defensemen can deliver.

Dizgun gives Ice Knights rare treat.

November 21, 2009

When freshman goaltender Mike Dizgun worked a shutout in his debut for the St. Michael’s College men’s hockey team Saturday, it marked the first time since Dec. 30, 2006, that the Purple Knights wound up with the zero in the opponents’ column.

Dizgun made 24 saves in the 4-0 win at New England University, the first SMC shutout since Derek Jackson beat Assumption with 18 saves in the next-to-last day of 2006.

That covered a stretch of 75 games in which SMC’s opponent scored at least one goal.

During that same time, the Purple Knights were shut out seven times.

Following the pros

November 21, 2009

A glance at the scoring leaders in the ECHL (no longer the East Coast Hockey League; just the ‘ECHL’) reveals some well-known names to Vermont college hockey followers.

Ranked 10th in overall scoring is Rick Cleaver, the former Norwich University standout. He has eight goals and 19 points for the Kalamazoo Wings, although he’s currently on loan to the Hershey Bears of the AHL, where he’s played one game.

Sitting in 17th place is one of UVM’s former mighty dynamos, Scott Mifsud of the Gwinnett (SC) Gladiators. Mifsud had seven goals and 17 points in a dozen games.

Another Cadet, Nikita Kashirsky, is tied for 18th with 10 goals and 16 points. His 10 goals are fourth among rookies.

Meanwhile, home-grown UVM mighty mite Peter Lenes of Shelburne has six goals and nine points for the Ontario Reign, with whom he’s rapidly become a fan favorite.

UVM men round out 2010 recruiting class

November 19, 2009

The University of Vermont men’s basketball team wrapped up next season’s recruiting class when it received a commitment from Sandro Carissimo of Iona Prep in New York. The 6-foot-2 guard confirmed his decision to The Journal News last week.

Iona Prep teammate Brian Voelkel, committed to UVM last month, helped lure Carissimo to Burlington, the Hudson Valley newspaper reported.

Carissimo, who averaged 14 points a game last season, also weighed offers from Davidson, Binghamton and Ivy and Patriot League programs, according to the report. Voelkel averaged 15.7 points and 12 rebounds for Iono Prep, which went 26-2 and won the CHSAA City championship and Catholic state title last season.

UVM received another verbal commitment in July from Ryan McKeaney, a 6-foot-9 post player from Marlton, N.J.

Under UVM rules, head coach Mike Lonergan cannot comment about a recruit until he has been admitted to the university.

The Catamounts lose Marqus Blakely, Nick Vier and Maurice Joseph at the end of the season.