The most tumultuous season of the Kevin Sneddon coaching era took another stunning twist Tuesday with the dismissal of junior forward Justin Milo from the University of Vermont men’s hockey team.
Sneddon declined to be specific about the reasons, saying only that he, his staff and the leadership had agreed that it would be in the best interest of the team to move forward with No. 7 no longer on the ice.
Tuesday evening, Milo said he had been told he was dismissed for inconsistent effort and play and a lack of commitment to the team. Basically, he said, he was baffled by the reasons given for banishing the team’s No. 2 goal scorer. For more of Milo’s reaction, check Wednesday’s Free Press print or online editions.
From the outside, it’s impossible to say one side was right or one side was wrong; whether the coach failed in his duties to reach the player or if the player didn’t want to be reached.
Seeing the games can provide some perspective, but no one outside of the team knows what goes on daily in practice, in the locker room, off the ice or in meetings. Maybe it’s a shared failure.
Only one thing can be said definitely: It’s sad that such situations ever arise.
Milo is a hockey talent, a scorer who loves to shoot the puck. He has been inconsistent this year, as have most of the Catamounts.
It wasn’t difficult to figure out that Milo was in the coaching doghouse. He had been there for the St. Lawrence game in December when he was listed as a “healthy scratch, coach’s decision.” Since UVM is consistent in announcing game absences for illness, injury or violations of the student-athlete code of conduct, Milo’s benching, one can surmise, had to do with his hockey.
Friday, Milo was scratched again, another indication that things were not running smoothly between coach and player. When Milo didn’t suit up for Saturday’s game, it was obvious the matter was serious.
But serious enough to warrant dismissal? Maybe; maybe not. Sneddon believes it was; Milo doesn’t; the eternal clash of perspectives of coach and player.
About the only positive note in all of this is that Milo will remain in school (though he might join the Yankees’ training camp for a time) and graduate this spring.
For the team, it will be a challenge to put this aside and focus on the weekend at New Hampshire. Vermont is vulnerable, its hold on the eighth and final playoff spot tenuous (it should also be noted that UVM is also only three points out of fourth, though trending the wrong way).
Certainly at season’s end, if not sooner, the coaching staff in particular as well as the players will have to do some soul-searching, trying to figure out why this season has become so difficult, and not just in terms of wins and losses. For one reason or another, three players are no longer with the team. Leadership has been questioned. Play has been inconsistent.
All in all, it’s been a harsh winter at Gutterson Fieldhouse, harsher than the one outside, and the forecast for the immediate future isn’t bright.