Posts Tagged ‘UVM hockey’

UVM hockey: The confidence factor

November 4, 2009

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.



Hockey Cats: What’s going on?

October 31, 2009

This can be guaranteed: The University of Vermont hockey team’s trip from Orono, Maine, Friday night/Saturday morning was not a pleasant one.

With all due credit to Merrimack a week ago and Maine on Friday, the Catamounts should not have lost these games, not if UVM wants to be considered a Hockey East contender.

At the least, Vermont should not have lost either game playing as poorly as it did.

The Catamounts need to take stock of their situation, from coaching staff to the seniors to those who fight just to get playing time. Nothing is working well after the victories over North Dakota and Boston College.

Even against BC, UVM was more fortunate than superior. The Eagles had the edge overall in play, though the Catamounts gradually took control and converted its chances.

Certainly head coach Kevin Sneddon has to resolve an ongoing concern: the play of the special teams. The power play has been inconsistent at best over the past couple of years and mostly inefffective this season. The penalty killing, once a hallmark of Catamount teams, has disolved into a rash of blown coverage and costly errors.

At this point, it’s a team-wide malaise and everyone associated with the program faces the challenge of hard-self appraisal and rededication to Catamount hockey. Be a blue-collar team in approach and play with the knowledge the speed and skill is there to make the difference at key points.

Next up is Lowell, the league favorite in the eyes of many observers. The Riverhawks will be fiesty, especially after their tough loss to Boston University. Any UVM performance resembling the Merrimack or Maine games will not only result in defeat but in humiliation before the hometown faithful.

Victory pleases Sneddon … and some

October 11, 2009

No doubt about it: Head coach Kevin Sneddon was as pleased with the University of Vermont’s 6-4 men’s hockey win over No. 1 Denver University on Saturday night as he was disappointed in the Catamounts’ 5-4 loss to the Pioneers on Friday.

“I’m very proud of this team for the lessons learned (Friday) and lessons applied (Saturday),” said Sneddon from chilly, snowy Denver minutes after the 14th-ranked Catamounts posted their first win.

Patrick Cullity celebrates a goal vs. Denver

AP photo: UVM's Patrick Cullity celebrates a goal against No. 1 ranked Denver.

“It was a total team effort from the net out. Our guys played really well and really smart for 60 minutes,” Sneddon said.

And one of the players most in line for praise was the very player who might have cost UVM the victory Friday: senior center Brayden Irwin.

Sneddon said the coaches met with Irwin on Saturday to deflect any negative effects of a five-minute major that led to a Denver goal and a total shift in momentum Friday. UVM led 4-2 late in the second period when Irwin was ejected from the game.

“He played so well against New Brunswick and for two periods Friday. We didn’t want him playing passively (Saturday) … and he was a huge factor,” said Sneddon of Irwin, whose second goal Saturday gave UVM the lead for keeps.

Friday, after leading 4-2 through two periods, the Catamounts wore down in the third against a Denver team loaded with offensive weapons. Combined with a long trip, the 5,000-foot altitude, a shortened bench and extensive penalty killing that wears down key players, said Sneddon, “The guys were just gasping in any free second.”

Saturday, he said, “Tonight was much better. We played shortened shifts, rolled four lines and all the defensemen played.

Another key player was Colin Vock, whom the coaches challenged Saturday to play to the level he’s capable of playing. He did, drawing a penalty and converting a penalty shot.

The Catamounts also displayed the resilience they had throughout last season. Denver twice took one-goal leads in the first period, forewarning of a possible rout, but Vermont responded each time.

“The one word we always talk about is to be relentless. When the other team scores, we don’t shrug our shoulders and let down,” Sneddon said. “Twice we had a great response when their team scored and they had the momentum. That’s tough to do against the No. 1 team in their building.”

Finally, the Catamounts came out of the weekend with 10 goals scored (and a worrisome nine allowed), giving hope that an offense that lost a batch of goals to graduation and a pro signing might be more prolific than anticipated.

Now the Catamounts get a week to prepare for their Hockey East opener against Boston College on Sunday at Gutterson Fieldhouse. After Saturday’s win, the Cats feel much better about that game than they did late Friday night.