In pursuit of a home ice berth for the Hockey East quarterfinals as a step toward an NCAA berth, the University of Vermont Catamounts have played better in recent games, though coach Kevin Sneddon says, “We’re just starting to scratch the surface of where I think this team can get to, which is exciting because we’ve had some real quality wins and we’ve played some great games.”
To continue the upward trend, though, UVM will need the same good play from those who have performed well and better execution and greater contributions from other sources.
One who recently made a major step is junior forward Justin Milo, who was a healthy scratch a few games back.
“Milo was in a little bit of a lull, we had to spark him a little bit,” Sneddon said. “We pulled him out of the lineup and I thought he played great in the tournament.
“He was a man on a mission without the puck and that’s when Justin’s at his best. When he all of a sudden is only worried about what he does with the puck, he kind of loses effectiveness. We got him back to playing where he’s capable of playing when he can sustain that because I think he’s one of the better forwardes in the league when he’s playing like that.”
Individually, Sneddon said, the player who must follow Milo’s resurrection is Wahsontiio Stacey.
“He’s started to come around a little bit. He’s the one guy when you look at our top six forwards right now … who really needs to get going. He does a great job blocking shots, but if he’s going to log that much ice time, he needs to be more consistent.”
And then there’s the touted corps of defensemen. Collectively, said Sneddon, they have improved but still have much more to offer.
“We just have moments when we have a breakdown that we’ve got to get rid of,” Sneddon said
As an example, Sneddon pointed to a situation in the Catamount Cup championship game against Minnesota-Duluth.
“In a 4-on-4, we look for an offensive rush opportunity and give up a breakaway to one of the best players in college hockey. Why? You’re up 5-1; why are we making that kind of decision?”
Or there was this situation in the semifinal win over Alabama-Huntsville: “Against Alabama, we take an ill-advised rush opportunity in the last minute of a period to give them the go-ahead goal going the other way.
“We’ve got to get rid of that going into the second half.”
Are the Catamounts capable of resolving those situation? Of course, but they have to prove it.