Posts Tagged ‘uvm men’s hockey’

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 need to strike 1st night, not respond the 2nd

January 22, 2010

No one can question the game-to-game resiliency of the UVM men’s hockey team. The record over the past couple of seasons proves that.

Five times, they’ve lost the opening game of a two-game weekend series against a single opponent and rebounded to win the second game. Only once last year did they lose the opener and then the second game as well. (They’ve also won the opener and lost the second game once.)

The trait is great … except it would be better if the Catamounts didn’t put themselves in that position.

This year, against Denver, Boston College and Northeastern, UVM scored second-night wins for weekend splits. They’re looking for their first sweep, and no sweep is possible without winning the first game.

“I sure hope it’s not a trend,” said UVM coach Kevin Sneddon as the Catamounts prepared for two games at Massachusetts this weekend. “We’re too good a team in my opinion, not just in terms of playing but in terms of what we have in that locker room, for us to be playing that way, to have a bum night on Friday and bounce back.

“Yes, it does show character, but why not play Friday the way you do on Saturday?” he said. “We’ve got to as a coaching staff do whatever we can possibly do to shake that. We need to play one shift at a time and play to the best of our ability period to period versus having a tough outcome and having to come back and rely on our character to respond.

“I want to look at (the first game); that’s two points on the line that we want to go after. Hopefully we’re talking about trying for a sweep the next night,” he said, dismissing talk that a split on the road is a good outcome. “I don’t like to think in those terms. It’s dangerous. We aim to win every game we play. That’s what we set out for. If we’re truly focused on one game at a time, that’s how we should approach it.”

Defenseman Kevan Miller concurred, saying, “We’ve always been good at responding the second game, but we’re trying to come out and play our best hockey for 120 minutes for the weekend instead of 20 minutes off, 10 minutes off here.”

Forward Brayden Irwin said, “We’ve come out where we’ve have a couple of stretches where we play well, one thing goes bad and it kind of turns our whole game. It’s important for us when those situations come up — they’re inevitable — to be able to deal and respond better, not let it turn our whole game plan.

“Now it’s a matter of how we respond the next shift.”

Right answer … now let’s see if the response to this creeping situation is the right one tonight at UMass.

Perseverance rewards Geverd

January 18, 2010

If any college hockey player deserves rewards for perseverance against incredible misfortune, it’s St. Michael’s College defenseman Tim Geverd.

If you’re a University of Vermont fan, you might remember Geverd and his incredible story, though he only played two games for the Catamounts.

Prior to attending UVM, Geverd had lost his right eye and he had undergone heart surgery. At Vermont, he missed his first two years of eligibility with early season-ending injuries.

Finally, in the fall of 2007, Geverd broke into the lineup, playing two games with a zero +/- rating and 17 penalty minutes. After the first semester, he decided to sever his ties with the Catamounts, transferring across the Winooski River to St. Michael’s.

Ill-fortune continued to pursue the 5-foot-10, 230-pound defenseman last year, injuries limiting him to one goal and two points plus 12 penalty minutes in 10 games.

This year, Geverd has been healthy and a force for the Purple Knights. In 13 games, he’s scored six goals and 12 points to go with 27 penalty minutes.

“I’ve never been happier in my life,” said Geverd after Saturday’s 4-4 tie with New England College. (Note: At the time, he was holding a pressure bandage to his chin, courtesy of a late-game cut.)

“It’s what you look forward to, playing every game, being an integral part of the team,” he said. “I couldn’t ask much more of coach (Chris) Davidson or any of  my teammates. Everybody’s making it a real enjoyable experience.”

Before getting shut out in the tie with NEC, Geverd had scored five goals and three assists in three games against Colby (tie), Bowdoin (loss) and St. Anselm (tie).

“I don’t know what’s going on there. I’ve never really been one to put the puck in the net. I’ve just been trying to shoot and put pucks on net for my teammates to get to,” he said. “We’ve had traffic in front and (the shots) have been able to find a way in.”

Geverd still follows the Catamounts and he stays in touch with his former classmates, Peter Lenes, Dean Strong and Corey Carlson, all of whom graduated in May and have moved on.

He isn’t certain what he will do when his career ends at St. Michael’s, but until then, he’s going to enjoy every sweet minute on the ice.

Time to step forward

January 14, 2010

In pursuit of a home ice berth for the Hockey East quarterfinals as a step toward an NCAA berth, the University of Vermont Catamounts have played better in recent games, though coach Kevin Sneddon says, “We’re just starting to scratch the surface of where I think this team can get to, which is exciting because we’ve had some real quality wins and we’ve played some great games.”

To continue the upward trend, though, UVM will need the same good play from those who have performed well and better execution and greater contributions from other sources.

One who recently made a major step is junior forward Justin Milo, who was a healthy scratch a few games back.

“Milo was in a little bit of a lull, we had to spark him a little bit,” Sneddon said. “We pulled him out of the lineup and I thought he played great in the tournament.

“He was a man on a mission without the puck and that’s when Justin’s at his best. When he all of a sudden is only worried about what he does with the puck, he kind of loses effectiveness. We got him back to playing where he’s capable of playing when he can sustain that because I think he’s one of the better forwardes in the league when he’s playing like that.”

Individually, Sneddon said, the player who must follow Milo’s resurrection is Wahsontiio Stacey.

“He’s started to come around a little bit. He’s the one guy when you look at our top six forwards right now … who really needs to get going. He does a great job blocking shots, but if he’s going to log that much ice time, he needs to be more consistent.”

And then there’s the touted corps of defensemen. Collectively, said Sneddon, they have improved but still have much more to offer.

“We just have moments when we have a breakdown that we’ve got to get rid of,” Sneddon said

As an example, Sneddon pointed to a situation in the Catamount Cup championship game against Minnesota-Duluth.

“In a 4-on-4, we look for an offensive rush opportunity and give up a breakaway to one of the best players in college hockey. Why? You’re up 5-1; why are we making that kind of decision?”

Or there was this situation in the semifinal win over Alabama-Huntsville: “Against Alabama, we take an ill-advised rush opportunity in the last minute of a period to give them the go-ahead goal going the other way.

“We’ve got to get rid of that going into the second half.”

Are the Catamounts capable of resolving those situation? Of course, but they have to prove it.

Sneddon’s list for success

December 17, 2009

UVM hockey coach Kevin Sneddon evaluates his team’s performance in any game by a standard other than the final score.

He has a list of 10 categories on which he and his staff grade the game. According to Sneddon, if UVM wins seven or more of the 10 areas, the Catamounts usually win. If they grade out higher in five or six areas, it’s likely the final score was a tie. Winning fewer than five almost certainly means defeat.

In the Catamounts’ last outing, 3-0 victory over St. Lawrence, UVM scored a perfect 10, according to Sneddon.

“It’s the first time in two years that we won every category and I thought Joe’s team played great,” said Sneddon this week, referring to SLU coach Joe Marsh.

“The categories that we try to win, a 3-0 game is kind of the ideal game for us,” he said, adding, “It still can work at 3-1 and still be a perfect game.”

According to Sneddon, his belief in the grading system is confirmed by the results over his tenure at Vermont. “It always works,” he said.

Okay, not quite always, as he acknowledged: Twice in the last two years, UVM’s performance level didn’t reflect the final score. Once, Vermont won four or fewer categories and came out on top — “Maybe we got great goaltending,” said Sneddon — and once the Catamounts played extremely well and lost.

Still, he said, “It’s something we really believe in.

“It’s happened where we’ve won four categories and won (the game) and we haven’t been hollering and hooting about our performance,” he said. “We’ve won seven categories and lost and your team feels like crap and your team played great.”

UVM has earned a couple of nines this year and “a bunch of nines last year,” according to Sneddon, but the SLU game was the Catamounts’ first 10 in awhile.

So what are the 10 categories? Sneddon won’t divulge the entire list, but he said, “It’s pretty basic categories.”

That doesn’t include turnovers, but it does include power play, penalty kill, blocking shots and, well, you can guess the rest.

Any takers?

So who’s in goal?

December 15, 2009

Early this University of Vermont hockey season, presumed No. 1 goalie Rob Madore wasn’t the same goaltender he was as a freshman who helped lead the Catamounts to the NCAA Frozen Four last year.

Rob Madore

Madore’s struggles opened the way for senior Mike Spillane, a two-year backup to Joe Fallon who lost out to Madore in the duel for No. 1 in 2008-09, and he responded with several good outings.

That left head coach Kevin Sneddon without a clearcut No. 1 and a developing rotation system. That’s not necessarily the worst scenario possible, but Sneddon, like many other coaches, would prefer one goalie to play well enough to start nearly every game.

Over the past six UVM games, the goalie sitaution has taken more twists and turns as Madore shows signs he’s ready to be The Man Behind the Mask. By his own evaluation, Madore said he was trying too hard to be perfect early in the season and too concerned about stopping second and third shots before making the first save. He’s since refocused and he’s relaxed and confident, as he showed with a spectacular early save against St. Lawrence that help set the tone.

In his last three starts, Madore has allowed five goals with a goals-against average of 1.62, a save percentage of .945 and his second career shutout.

Even if his relief numbers against New Hampshire — 1 goal allowed, 9 saves, 29 minutes — are thrown in, he still has impressive numbers: 1.68 GAA and .940 save percentage.

Spillane meanwhile has been on a rollercoaster. He had a 26-save shutout of Yale but yielded 10 goals in his

Now comes the question: Whom does Sneddon start against Dartmouth?

If Sneddon stays with the rotation, it’s Spillane turn. However, if Sneddon feels Madore is ready to assert himself as No. 1, should he start this Saturday rather than face the extended layoff from Dec. 12 to Jan. 2, the opening round of Vermont’s holiday tournament?

As of Tuesday, Sneddon isn’t saying; nothing unusual about that since he often uses the input of goalie coach Terry Lovelette as well as performances in practice in naming his starter.

As a guess (educated or otherwise), though, look for Madore to go against Dartmouth, Spillane to open against Alabama-Huntsville in the tourney’s first game and Madore to play either Minnesota-Duluth or Mercyhurst in UVM’s second tourney game.

Goal scorers are rare treats

December 12, 2009

Elite goal scorers are rare commodities for the University of Vermont hockey team.

Over the last three decades, those who score 20 or more times during a season pass through Gutterson Fieldhouse infrequently. Since Eric Perrin and Martin St. Louis terrorized opposing goalies in 1993-97, only two Catamounts have surpassed the 20-goal level: Scott Mifsud with 21 in 2004-05 and Viktor Stalberg with 24 a year ago.

That’s not surprising. In 2008-09, among the 58 Division I teams nationally, only 20 players scored at least 20 goals. In Hockey East, of the 180 players who scored one or more goals overall, just five hit the 20-goal level.

Recruiting elite scorers might be the biggest challenge most programs face, second only to finding the offensively gifted defenseman, and the traditional national powers with gaudier histories and fancier facilities have the advantage of enticing such players; that’s life in all sports.

Over the history of the UVM program, the Catamounts have had a number of elite scorers, but many wound up at Vermont for reasons beyond the program itself. Tom Cullity, the Cats’ last 30-goal scorer, transferred in after Penn dropped hockey. UVM offered Kirk McCaskill the opportunity to play baseball as well as hockey. Perrin and St. Louis liked the proximity of Burlington to their hometowns as well as the opportunity to move a program ahead. No one pictured Stalberg as a 24-goal scorer as a freshman.

This year, it again appears that Vermont must rely upon balance to generate enough goals for a winning season. With Stalberg and Peter Lenes (15 goals a year ago) departed, no one stands out as a pure goal scorer, although it will be fun to see how freshmen David Pacan and Chris McCarthy develop.

Last season, including Vermont’s second Frozen Four appearance, Stalberg and Lenes helped the Catamounts average 3.10 goals scored per game. That’s the most productive rate of UVM’s five-year Hockey East history. This year, UVM is scoring 2.71 goals per game — higher than its first three HEA seasons — despite a woeful power play.

“We’ve been relying on our 5-on-5 for our offense. We’ve been winning some games against good teams based on 5-on-5 play, which at this level isn’t good enough,” head coach Kevin Sneddon said this week. “We’ve got to skill to score goals; there’s no doubt about it. I’d be worried if we weren’t creating chances, but I’ve seen us finish; I’ve seen us finish well.”

Even with the lack of a pure shooter, the UVM offense should be good enough to win games, especially if the power play starts to contribute. No question it would be nice to have a go-to scorer, a Bobby Butler of UNH, Casey Wellman of UMass or Gustav Nyquist of Maine.

Still, for Vermont this year, defense, not offense, has been the No. 1 problem, and an improved defense will help offset the lack of a Stalberg, a Perrin or a St. Louis.

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.

Power shortage

December 3, 2009

No one denies the University of Vermont men’s hockey team has an acute shortage of power on the power play.

The Catamounts are only 5 for 52: 9.6 percent.

Until recently, Vermont’s ineptitude on the power play was particularly disastrous since the UVM penalty kill was nearly as unsuccessful. That’s a loss-inducing combination.

The PK has improved — 10-for-10 over the past two games, both wins — but UVM’s special teams net is still a minus-10.

That’s been a problem in recent years, despite the Catamounts’ overall success.

In their Frozen Four season a year ago, the Cats had a decent power play percentage at 17.4, though it was very erratic. They still wound up minus-8 (power play goals scored plus short-handed goals scored minus power play goals and short-handed goals allowed) and they were a minus-9 when they reached the Hockey East championship game the year before that.

In 2006-07, UVM was a plus 13, due primarily to a great penalty kill and a decent power play (17.1) and in their first HEA season, they were a plus 19 with a 20.1 percent power play.

Of this year’s power play, head coach Kevin Sneddon said, “The puck’s been moved around pretty well over the last several games; we’ve created chances on almost all our power plays; it just hasn’t gone in.

“The frustration we have is just those times when guys watch one of their teammates have two guys all over them and we’re hoping the puck gets to us instead of battling for it, or outnumbering, or worrying about the structure (before) we get that possession.”

Sneddon has said he wants his special teams to work at a combined percentage of 110: add power play success plus penalty kill success. Thus, if the power play scores at 20 percent, penalty kill must be at least at 80 percent. If the power play’s at 15 percent; PK must be at 85. The higher the combined percentage, the better.

Here, for Sneddon’s seven years at the Catamount helm, are the power play, penalty kill and combined percentages plus special teams net goals:

2009-10: .096, .776, .872, minus 10

2008-9: .174, . 811, .985, minus 8

2007-08: .129, .862, .991, minus 9

2006-07: .171, .888, 1.059, plus 13

2005-06: .201, .864, 1.065, plus 19

2004-05: .180, .869, 1.049, plus 12

2003-04: .189, .849, .939, minus 11

Total: .173, .839, 1.012, plus 6

Play your role and you play the game

November 29, 2009

In an effort to get the University of Vermont hockey team back on track this week, coach Kevin Sneddon drove home his points with hard practices and lineup adjustments.

One game-time change featured the insertion of young defensemen Anders Franzon and Lance Herrington in place of two veterans.

Another included shuffling of lines, a situation exacerbated by the last minute unavailability of Wahs Stacey (day-to-day; non-specific injury).

The other move was a direct attempt to improve UVM’s woeful penalty killing, where the Catamounts’ 75.4 percent kill rate ties them for 51st out of 58 teams nationally.

Into the lineup went Brett Leonard, Jay Anctil and Jonathan Higgins, true role players.

“We wanted to get some of our veterans in the lineup from a penalty kill standpoint. We wanted to get Brett Leonard, Jay Anctil and Jon Higgins, guys who have worked the kill in practice a lot, sometimes on the mock penalty kill, and done a nice job,” Sneddon said Sunday.

“We just felt we needed those guys that we feel could get the job done. That was first and foremost on our minds: get some guys in that could kill penalties for us.

“We’re tired of seeing a 70 percent kill. We’ve got to be betgter than that. That really sparked the decision within the lineup,” said Sneddon, who said other line combinations were instituted because “we felt we needed to spread our talent around a litte bit, combine it with some grit. For the most part, it worked out pretty well.”

As for the penalty kill move, the Catamounts were 4-for-4, holding Northeastern scoreless man-up, a key factor in UVM’s 3-2 win.

The lesson: Know your role, play your role, and you get to play the game.