Cats need to strike 1st night, not respond the 2nd

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No one can question the game-to-game resiliency of the UVM men’s hockey team. The record over the past couple of seasons proves that.

Five times, they’ve lost the opening game of a two-game weekend series against a single opponent and rebounded to win the second game. Only once last year did they lose the opener and then the second game as well. (They’ve also won the opener and lost the second game once.)

The trait is great … except it would be better if the Catamounts didn’t put themselves in that position.

This year, against Denver, Boston College and Northeastern, UVM scored second-night wins for weekend splits. They’re looking for their first sweep, and no sweep is possible without winning the first game.

“I sure hope it’s not a trend,” said UVM coach Kevin Sneddon as the Catamounts prepared for two games at Massachusetts this weekend. “We’re too good a team in my opinion, not just in terms of playing but in terms of what we have in that locker room, for us to be playing that way, to have a bum night on Friday and bounce back.

“Yes, it does show character, but why not play Friday the way you do on Saturday?” he said. “We’ve got to as a coaching staff do whatever we can possibly do to shake that. We need to play one shift at a time and play to the best of our ability period to period versus having a tough outcome and having to come back and rely on our character to respond.

“I want to look at (the first game); that’s two points on the line that we want to go after. Hopefully we’re talking about trying for a sweep the next night,” he said, dismissing talk that a split on the road is a good outcome. “I don’t like to think in those terms. It’s dangerous. We aim to win every game we play. That’s what we set out for. If we’re truly focused on one game at a time, that’s how we should approach it.”

Defenseman Kevan Miller concurred, saying, “We’ve always been good at responding the second game, but we’re trying to come out and play our best hockey for 120 minutes for the weekend instead of 20 minutes off, 10 minutes off here.”

Forward Brayden Irwin said, “We’ve come out where we’ve have a couple of stretches where we play well, one thing goes bad and it kind of turns our whole game. It’s important for us when those situations come up — they’re inevitable — to be able to deal and respond better, not let it turn our whole game plan.

“Now it’s a matter of how we respond the next shift.”

Right answer … now let’s see if the response to this creeping situation is the right one tonight at UMass.

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