As they prepare for UMass-Lowell’s arrival on Friday, the University of Vermont hockey Catamounts are dealing with a crisis of confidence.
UVM coach Kevin Sneddon this week admitted that the 5-2 loss at Merrimack, coupled with internal and external expectations, might have damaged the team’s psyche more than anyone could have predicted.
Losing to Merrimack in itself wasn’t shocking; that happens. Getting beat in nearly every aspect of the game is another matter, and “we got knocked on our butts pretty good by a very good Merrimack team,” Sneddon confirmed.
With a week to sit on that defeat and wonder how it all went so totally wrong after wins over Denver and Boston College, the Catamounts then played at Maine. This time, said Sneddon, “Mentally, we were a little bit fragile, very fragile, going into Maine.”
The Catamounts were tentative, fearful of making more of the mistakes that were costly against Merrimack. Consequently, said Sneddon, “I think in the back of their minds, they were already worrying about what happens if we drop another one.”
While Maine played to win, UVM played to not lose. “You can’t play the game that way,” Sneddon said. The mistakes and penalties, many of the unnecessary, frustration type, multiplied.
This week, the UVM coaching staff will seek to reinforce the Catamount way: play aggressively but play smart; do not fear mistakes but force the opponent to make them.
The coaches will tinker with lines, consider new defensive pairings, think about using a different player or two.
They must also revamp the penalty killing and find some power play combination that will at least generate scoring chances, not just whittle two minutes off the clock.
The Catamounts have the potential and talent to be a very good team in Hockey East. Right now, though, their belief in themselves and their mettle are being tested. The weekend series against Lowell and Providence will reflect whether they’re on the way back.