This is, without question or debate, the most frustrating and baffling University of Vermont men’s hockey team of the Kevin Sneddon coaching era.
For reasons that defy understanding, these Catamounts can be incredibly mediocre or very good, all within a single weekend.
And it’s been that way virtually every weekend; at least, every Hockey East weekend.
So it happened at Gutterson Fieldhouse against Maine. It’s just this time, UVM didn’t get away with its watch-one, play-one game pattern. The Black Bears’ power play was just too good to let the Cats get away with blatant breakdowns and forged a 4-4 tie Saturday, taking three points on the weekend.
That aside, as Maine coach Tim Whitehead emphatically stated, the Black Bears had no right to be in this game through 40 minutes, not with the domination Vermont displayed.
And therein is the growing frustration for and with this team. Why can’t the Catamounts at least play with the energy, the urgency, the desperation every game that they so often call forth after a defeat?
The players don’t know. The coaches don’t know. No one in the seats or the press boxes know. And it’s getting awfully late in the season for this to be happening.
Losses are going to happen in Hockey East, even when a team plays well. It’s that close this year, top to bottom. Yet any team that doesn’t play with energy and urgency doesn’t give itself a chance to win.
Clearly this team has significant faults. The power play is close to abysmal; the team temprement blows hot and cold; key veteran players make big mistakes, mental or physical, at critical times.
But they can play; at least, they can play at times, just not all the time.
Right now, the Catamounts can’t be worried about getting home ice for the Hockey East quarterfinals. They need to worry about qualifying for the tournament, and who would have thought that in October?
As of today, Vermont is tied for seventh, but only three points ahead of No. 9 Merrimack and six up on No. 10 Providence. Next up for UVM? Two at Providence, followed by two at The Gut against Merrimack.
So what’s going to happen over the next couple of weeks? Who knows? In a tough and unpredictable league, no team is more baffling than the Catamounts.