UVM women’s hockey shows improvement

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Making the Hockey East playoffs might be out of reach for the University of Vermont women’s hockey team, but the Catamounts are still capable of making plenty of noise.

Wednesday night, the Catamounts stunned fourth-ranked New Hampshire, 2-1, at Gutterson Fieldhouse, the first UVM win over UNH.

It was Vermont’s third win in five games and second win over a nationally ranked program in three games, No. 9 Providence being the other victim.

Today, the Catamounts meet Maine at The Gut at 2 p.m., leaving UVM with four games; not enough time to make the playoffs.

Still, it’s been a couple of eventful weeks for the Catamounts, who have slowly—more slowly than wanted or anticipated—become competitive in Hockey East under the direction of former NHL defenseman Tim Bothwell.

At the start of this year, UVM played well before running into a rough stretch that began with two losses in Maine.

“We did not play well in terms of organization, structure, everything else,” Bothwell said. “We did not remotely look like the same team.”

Since a 2-1 win at Wayne State on Jan. 9, UVM has regained some of its early season play.

“We feel we’ve got our team back to where we were early in the year, which is pleasing and very good to see,” Bothwell said right before the UNH game. “We’re playing with a lot of energy, playing with way better structure, doing better things offensively, just managing everything much more positively.”

That included a 2-0 loss to nationally ranked Connecticut in which the Huskies had no shots in the first period and only one in the third. The weekend before that, UVM split with BU and, with a timely goal, could have swept.

A lack of scoring has been Vermont’s primary flaw and Bothwell conceded, “The big trick in women’s hockey is to get your hands on a couple, three, as many as you can get, really gifted offensive people.”

As yet, UVM hasn’t developed the stature to draw that kind of scoring talent, but the Catamounts, according to various Web sites, have scored a coup with incoming goaltender Roxanne Douville of Beloeil, Quebec. She was the top goalie for Canada’s U-18 team and should give Vermont an excellent foundation upon which to build a team next year.

These Catamounts will lose their share of talent, including all-time leading scorer Chelsea Furlani of Colchester and goalie Kristen Olychuk, but Douville should have some quality classmates next fall as well as seasoned veterans.

Right now, the Catamounts are looking to have some fun and mess with some opponents who have, for far too long, marked the Vermont game in the win column before the opening faceoff.

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