Posts Tagged ‘Kevan Miller’

Hockey Cats need a voice, and more

January 28, 2010

In a mid-December blog, I discussed the need for leadership from within the UVM men’s hockey team.

A month later, the topic was again the subject of interest at coach Kevin Sneddon’s weekly meeting with the media, in part because Sneddon referred to the need for a voice to emerge from the locker room in a television interview during Sunday’s win over Massachusetts.

Leadership among players emerges several ways. There are the captains, sometimes selected by players and sometimes chosen by coaches. There are the upper classmen, who have been through it all before. And there are a few individuals whose personalities and traits earn them the kind of respect among their peers necessary to lead.

Every student-athlete brings something to the team as a competitor. Some have great skills; they’re the stars. Others are role players, the ones who grind it out. Only the rarest, as one coach put it, have fourth-liner mentalities and first-liner skills, combining the best assets without the downside of either.

So it is with captains. Some lead by example, working hard in practice but playing hard in games, but are otherwise reserved and quiet. Some can deliver fiery speeches or rah-rah pep talks. Rare is the captain who has the perfect combination of athletic and people skills.

In recent UVM history, think Martin St. Louis and Jaime Sifers, each among the best at his position, tough, talented, emotional, a driving force not only for himself but for his teammates and his team, but even they needed support and leadership assistance.

Quietly, Sneddon has looked to junior defenseman Kevan Miller to emerge as the voice of the Catamounts, the one player who can rally the troops or deliver stern messages. If Miller can, he will give UVM a three-headed captaincy that could drive Vermont toward a strong finish to the season, joining lead-by-example captain Brian Roloff and lead-through-emotion assistant captain Patrick Cullity.

Roloff readily admits he’s not an in-your-face type of captain, and he said, “That kind of ‘grab a guy by the collar and set him straight’ would certainly work good for some guys; other guys I think might not respond well with that, but there’s certainly a place for it.”

Nominally a captain, as is Roloff (Cullity’s an assistant), Miller has deferred to the seniors, but said he will take a more active role.

“When it comes down to it, it’s one guy who the Coach wants to find that can really lead the team, get the fire going and kind of look to to be the voice of the team, which is like the guys sitting down in the locker room between periods and they look to the guy as the person they want to hear from,” Miller said.

“We’re trying to find that here and it’s taken a little longer than we’ve expected. Hopefully, we’ll get it going here,” Miller said.

* * *

Pressure? Sure, there’s pressure, and maybe that’s what the Catamount need.

“Maybe they need to feel a little more of it. More sense of urgency could be the difference and (tonight) that’s what I’m hoping we see, that sense of urgency from the moment the puck drops till the end of the buzzer,” said Sneddon.

“I think it would be good,” Roloff said. “The majority of this team has seen some pretty big games and maybe (we’re) kind of pushing it off and, well, we can always take care of business when we need to, but I do think there is a sense of urgency right now coming out now that we have 12 games left in Hockey East.

“It’s starting to hit home, unfortunately a little later than we would have liked, but we’ve certainly got a good opportunity against Maine.”

* * *

Speaking of Maine, the Black Bears have scored 45 percent of their goals on the power play with Gustav Nyquist (13-19-32), Brian Flynn, Tanner House, Robby Dee and Adam Shemansky combining for 24 man-up goals. Three of those goals, plus a short-handed goal, came in the Bears’ 4-1 win over Vermont at Maine early in the season.

UVM has collected 22 percent of its goals on the power play. Its penalty killers have excelled, allowing three power play goals in 12 games (3 for 53, or a 94.3 kill rate).

* * *

Maine goalie Scott Darlington (2.62, .910) missed a couple of games with a knee injury but should be ready this weekend … UVM forward Jack Downing will sit out tonight’s game as the third game of a three-game suspension for a violation of the student-athlete code of conduct. He is eligible but not guaranteed to play Saturday … Backup goalie Mike Spillane is day-to-day with an injury …

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Cats’ leadership needs to grow

December 11, 2009

At the collegiate hockey level, it’s difficult to find a team captain who excels in all aspects of being a leader.

Some lead by example; first to practice, last off the ice, hardest worker, most willing to sacrifice the body.

Some lead by skill: great speed, quick hands, hard shot, baffling moves.

Some lead through emotion: unloading a big hit, vocally challenging teammates on the ice and in the locker room.

That’s why the better teams not only have the captain but a group of players who can provide leadership in one or more ways, who can demand much of themselves while demanding as much from teammates. There are players who can lead quietly and those who can provide constructive confrontation, those who lead the way and those who have your back.

Even with those qualities, until the leaders accept those roles and the remainder understand their roles, a team can struggle no matter what the level of talent. While coaches provide one kind of leadership, few teams excel until the players take responsibility for their own actions and demand accountability from their teammates.

There’s nothing new in this. Middlebury College coach Bill Beaney has been asserting for over two decades that his teams never reach their potential until, in his words, “they make it their team.” Not the coach’s team; not the fans’ team; not the school’s team; their team.

So it is at the University of Vermont this winter.

“I’ve always said accountability and responsibility are the number one things I can teach young men. When it’s all said and done, if they can look at themselves in the mirror, know they did everything possible, hold themselves accountable but also hold each other accountable, that equals ownership. It becomes their team,” said UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon this week.

“Right now, we don’t have that yet. I think we’ll get there; I know we’ll get there. A lot of that has to do with the leadership, guys feeling comfortable with positive confrontation, feeling comfortable with holding guys accountable. That maybe hasn’t been our strong point to date, but I’m hopeful they’re learning what it takes. I think the character is there for them to be great leaders. It’s a matter of much like everything, putting it all together.”

As a leader by example, captain Brian Roloff is superb, but he might not be comfortable with confrontation. Assistant captain Patrick Cullity is an emotional leader, though his emotions sometimes get the better of him on the ice. Assistant captain Kevan Miller might have the best blend, but he’s a junior still adjusting to his responsibilities.

Those from the Martin St. Louis/Jaime Sifers mold are rare, but they will tell you, for all their leadership qualities, they didn’t do it alone. Neither can Roloff, Cullity and Miller, though they are where leadership begins with these Catamounts. How quickly everyone adjusts to the team’s new leadership may determine how quickly the Catamounts start reaching their potential.

UVM defensemen must step up

November 23, 2009

The bedrock of this year’s University of Vermont men’s hockey team is a veteran defense returning six starters.

In senior Patrick Cullity, juniors Kevan Miller, Kyle Medvec, Josh Burrows and Dan Lawson and sophomore Drew MacKenzie, the Catamounts boast a tourney-tested corps of big, tough, mobile defenders who can provide key hits and key goals.

Yet the group hasn’t jelled into the force it should be, can be and, from a Vermont perspective, must be for the Catamounts to be contenders in Hockey East and for a second consecutive NCAA berth.

“I don’t they’ve been great,” said head coach Kevin Sneddon on Monday. “We’ve had some players, we’re really had to reiterate their roles. For whatever reason — the hype going into the season, aspirations change — even though you have the same group of guys, some guys think they’ve got to be offensive-minded and it’s not their role.

“So you’re making sure your guys know what they need to do to give us shots at winning hockey games,” Sneddon said. “There have been some guys who just haven’t performed very well up to date.”

While some inconsistency should be expected from freshman Anders Franzon, the degree exhibited by others is surprising and it’s been across the board, though some have struggled more than others.

“It’s been one guy one night, a couple of guys the next night … It’s been a little bit of everybody,”  said Sneddon. “The three rocks back there right now have been Medvec, Cullity and Miller.

“It’s been more coverage and running around and not taking charge back there than anything. Our breakouts have been pretty good. We’ve had a few moments turning the puck over, not making the simple play, and that’s been working itself out of our game right now. It’s mainly been poor coverage or two guys playing the same guy and leaving somebody open … things you would expect out of a young defensive corps, not a veteran corps.”

With a longer and harder week of practice, Sneddon said, “We’re seeing improvement back there.”

It’s certainly what UVM needs and what this corps of defensemen can deliver.