Posts Tagged ‘Hockey East’

Hockey Cats in intensive care

February 22, 2010

For the first time during their five seasons in Hockey East, the University of Vermont Catamounts are on the verge of failing to qualify for the league’s tournament.

Throughout most of the Hockey East season, the Catamounts have sputtered along, never gaining momentum, never crashing to a full stop. They tiptoed around the .500 mark, never surpassing it but always staying in a position where a nice run could propel them into the top four to guarantee themselves a home quarterfinal series.

In the last three weeks, the lose one/win one scenario crashed. Between injuries, blown third-period leads, critical mistakes and an on-the-rise challenger in Merrimack, the Catamounts have sunk into ninth place, one position out of the playoffs, and the road back is filled with obstacles that might prove to be insurmountable.

Beginning with the second home game against Maine on Jan. 30, here’s a capsule of the Catamounts’ fall from contention: leading 4-2 vs. Maine in third period, 4-4 tie; tied last-place Providence, 1-1; leading 2-1 vs. Merrimack with five minutes remaining, 2-2 tie; leading 2-1 vs. Merrimack with two minutes remaining, 3-2 defeat; leading New Hampshire 3-2 after two periods, 3-3 tie.

That’s nine points the Catamounts had in their grasp late in games; they held on to just four. Even three of those lost five points would have improved UVM’s condition immeasurably.

Instead, with four games remaining, they trail Merrimack by a single point, but realistically it’s two since if the Catamounts wind up tied with the Warriors, Merrimack has the head-to-head tiebreaker; more reason why that weekend vs. the Warriors was so disastrous.

They also trail Massachusetts and UMass-Lowell by only two points and UVM has one game-in-hand on UMass. Plus, if UVM can stay within two points of the Riverhawks, then Vermont’s season-ending series at UML could determine which team gets in as the No. 8 seed and which doesn’t.

However, for any scenario in which Vermont catches some team above it, the Catamounts must produce points. That won’t be easy this weekend with Boston University coming to The Gut. The Terriers have motivation of their own since their grip on fourth and home ice for the quarterfinals is slippery; BU has a one-point edge over Northeastern and the Terriers and Huskies wrap up the regular season against each other.

That’s why the weekend series at New Hampshire was so emotionally devastating to UVM. For all the character and resilience the Catamounts showed despite injuries and the aftermath of the Justin Milo affair, Vermont came home with only a single point when it probably deserved more.

Given the respective schedules remaining, UVM is up against it. Lowell faces last-place Providence this weekend; Merrimack catches the Friars on the final weekend. The best shot might be to catch slumping Massachusetts, which plays its final three games at Boston College and Maine (two games).

It’s not over, but it might be if Vermont doesn’t get a few points this weekend.

Remaining schedules:

The remaining regular-season schedules for teams 5 through 9 in Hockey East:

5. Northeastern (11-11-1, 23 points): UNH, at UNH, at BU, BU;

6t. Lowell (10-11-2, 22): Providence, at Providence, UVM, UVM;

6t. Massachusetts (11-13-0, 22): at BC, at Maine, at Maine.

8. Merrimack (10-11-1, 21): at BC, Maine, Maine, at Providence, Providence.

9. Vermont (7-10-6, 20): BU, BU, at Lowell, at Lowell.

Cats continue comeback trend

November 17, 2009

The UVM men’s hockey team reiterated one of its biggest strengths in recent seasons when it rebounded to beat Boston College on Sunday. Under coach Kevin Sneddon, the Catamounts have shown a remarkable — and consistent — ability to rebound immediately from poor performances.

Want statistical proof? Over the last three seasons, Vermont has lost the first game of a weekend series 12 times. On 10 of those weekends, the Catamounts rebounded to win the second game.

And even some of  Vermont’s most humbling losses in recent memory have been answered:

  • In November of the 2007, Boston University routed Vermont 9-1 at Gutterson Fieldhouse in a Friday night game. The next night, the Cats came back from a 3-1 deficit to score a 5-4 victory.
  • Early last season, BU skated away from the Gut with a 7-2 victory in a Saturday night game. The next afternoon, the Cats traveled to Hanover, N.H., and topped Dartmouth 3-2 on Justin Milo’s goal in overtime (and, a couple of weeks later, they swept a pair of 4-3 at BU).
  • And this weekend, UVM scored Sunday’s 3-2 victory came the afternoon after BC ran off six unanswered goals in a 7-1 blowout. It was an espeically big win for the Catamounts considering they had been 0-3 on the road in Hockey East play.

That said, the one time Vermont has failed to bounce back from a weekend-opening loss the last two seasons couldn’t have been more poorly timed. It was during last season’s Hockey East quarterfinals, when UMass-Lowell swept the Cats 4-3 in overtime and 4-2, denying UVM a trip to the Boston Garden.

*****

Audio from Sneddon’s press conference after Sunday’s bounce-back win at  BC

Justin Milo: A shooter’s mentality

November 14, 2009

Goal scorers must have a selfish streak. They want the puck for one reason: to beat the opposing goalie.

This is not a negative trait, not if a player has a scorer’s touch. To shoot hard and wildly time after time is one matter. To release the shot quickly with accuracy is an entirely different matter.

Justin Milo is a shooter and a scorer, something too few University of Vermont hockey players are, or even try to be.

milo “He’s got a shooter’s mentality,” said UVM coach Kevin Sneddon this week after Milo scored three goals  against Lowell and Providence after missing Vermont’s first five games.

“He can get the puck going to the net quickly. He scores goals that most of our guys can’t,” Sneddon said.

As a sophomore a year ago, Milo finished with 12 goals, displaying a knack for the game-changing goal. Now, with Viktor Stalberg (24 goals) and Peter Lenes (15 goals) off to the pros, Milo is one Catamount with the potential for a breakout goal-scoring season.

“It’s real important to get shots on net,” Milo said. “A lot of guys on a lot of teams pass up the shot and pass up chances to score. You never know what will happen when you throw the puck on net.

“As long as it’s headed toward the net, good things happen,” said Milo, who says his quick release and accuracy are the products of instinct and hundreds of hours of practice. “Last year, I was a little bit more pass-first and this year, it’s my turn to be the shooter on the team and I’m trying to put the puck on net as much as possible.”

Playing with Brian Roloff and Colin Vock suits Milo since, he said, “Both are great passers and puck movers.

“I just try and find some open ice and try to get that quick shot off,” he said. “I feel we can create chances every shift we get.”

Vock recognizes Milo’s ability to pull the trigger without settling the puck for the split justinsecond many players take, a split-second that lets goalies square up or defenders get a stick in the way. Milo’s second goal against Providence was exactly that: a Vock pass from below the end line to Milo in the slot for a no-hesitation, rising wrist shot that caught the goaltender moving side-to-side.

“Not everybody has the ability to put the puck in the back of the net like he does. He’s got a great shot, a quick release,” Vock explained. “He’s a very skilled player. He likes to shoot the puck a lot. Sometimes Brian and I look to pass first, so when you have a guy like him who likes to shoot and bury the puck, it’s good to play with him.”

Milo’s return from an early season injury should help the Catamounts develop a power play that can provide at least average production.

“He’s the one guy who can control and reset a power play,” Sneddon said. “He knows when to slow it down, when to speed it up and he can finish.”

Sometimes, being selfish is not a bad thing.

Replay immediately put to work

October 19, 2009

Hockey East fans will have another new feature before long. Since the end of last season, the ten Hockey East athletic directors voted to install video replay equipment at all ten arenas. Some are up and running and the rest will be before the end of October. Each rink will be equipped with overhead cameras above the goals and a center ice camera to give officials multiple angles on all goals. Only the referee can initiate a replay and he will be governed by NCAA rules as to what he can review. A monitor at ice level will allow him to see the different camera angles as well as the time on the clock. There are also audio capabilities to assist in those situations where hearing a whistle could affect the outcome of a play. This should be a great tool for all officials in their quest to “get it right.”

That’s one of the things Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna had to say in his commissioner’s note last week in last week’s league update (see the full release), and the new replay equipment was certainly was put to work in Vermont’s 4-1 win over Boston College at Gutterson Fieldhouse on Sunday.

First, Colin Vock’s goal that gave Vermont a 2-1 lead was confirmed by an officials’ review.

Then, just seconds later, the referees tried to review a BC shot that officials on the ice ruled went through the side of the net and into the goal. The replay equipment didn’t work on that one, leaving the officials’ initial decision to stand, but the overhead camera did provide an excellent view of the play. It can be seen about a minute into the ESPN.com game highlights HERE.

UVM men’s hockey picked to finish tied for fourth

September 30, 2009

The University of Vermont men’s hockey team can expect a fight for home ice in the Hockey East playoffs if the league coaches’ preseason predictions are correct.

Hockey East released its league preseason poll Wednesday afternoon and the Catamounts were ranked in a tie for fourth. UVM and New Hampshire each received 59 points, just two more than sixth-place Northeastern.

The top four teams play at home in the quarterfinal round of the Hockey East tournament.

Defending NCAA and Hockey East champion Boston University was made the league favorite, receiving six first-place votes and 84 points in the poll. Second-choice Massachusetts Lowell (79 points) and No. 3 Boston College (76) split the other four first-place votes.

Massachusetts (47 points), Maine (32), Providence (24) and Merrimack (23) were picked to follow Northeastern in the 10-team league.