It’s Good To Be Back
After more than a year and a half of dormancy, the secret is finally out. The Vermont Catamounts can still play a pretty decent game of hockey. Whether it was the emotion of the Catamount faithful, the pent-up energy of the young players or simply the excitement of being out on the ice again, the Vermont players hit the rink last weekend in Gutterson Fieldhouse with something to prove.
With most people not really knowing to expect, the Catamounts gave New Hampshire all it could handle last Saturday night. Despite breaking out to a 4-2 lead midway through the third period, Vermont could not hang on and eventually fell to UNH, 5-4 in overtime.
“It would have been a great storybook type of night to knock off a team like that, but we’ve got big games ahead,” said Vermont head coach Mike Gilligan, whose team faces Boston University this Saturday night. “We’ve only been skating for a couple of weeks and it was our first game. So I think they had some jitters and the puck wasn’t moving that well.”
As expected, Vermont came out of the gates tentatively and found itself behind after just 1:50 of play. Seconds after that first UNH goal, Vermont dodged what could have been a demoralizing blow. David Busch stormed down the ice all alone on goaltender Andrew Allen and lifted a sure goal over the net. What could have been a 2-0 lead for New Hampshire soon turned into a 1-1 game when J.F. Gamelin slipped a shot past Ty Conklin for the early equalizer. Despite shaky legs in the remaining portion of that first period in which UNH outshot Vermont by a 14-6 margin, the Catamounts clung to the 1-1 tie. That set the stage for a second period in which Vermont found its rhythm and broke out to a 3-1 lead after just nine minutes.
“We played very well in the second period, especially,” said Gilligan. “We bumped them, we slowed them down and I thought it might have been enough to pull it off. But [UNH] is a team that came back with five unanswered goals in the third against Colgate, so we knew that they might not be finished.”
Although Vermont stumbled in the end, Gilligan was able to evaluate his team in a real game situation for the first time in over a year.
That may prove to be much more valuable than any one “W”.
“We played hard all night, but I didn’t think we had our real legs in the third period,” said Gilligan. “It looked like we tired with seven or eight minutes to go on the clock. I’m pretty happy with the freshmen. I’m not too happy with some of the older guys.”
One of the freshmen who made an impact in his first collegiate contest was Jeff Miles, who skated strong all night and netted Vermont’s fourth and final goal. Sophomore Gamelin, playing in only his 14th collegiate game, and senior Jean-Francois Caudron provided an offensive punch as well as the two combined for three points.
“We made some bad decisions with the puck. We didn’t dump it deep enough when we got to their blue line,” said Gilligan. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot. It wasn’t that [UNH] took the game from us. It was that we gave it up.”
With the anticipation and anxiety over the first game out of the way, the Vermont players were able to walk away from Gutterson with mixed emotions — a little bit of excitement and whole lot of relief. For head coach Gilligan, it’s more about the thrill of the game. Judging by his focused demeanor after the UNH game, he hasn’t missed a step.
“It was an A-1 effort, but we’ve got to learn to think out there, too,” said Gilligan. “You can’t just run around. You’ve got to think.”
Passing The First Test
The Engineers never trailed in the game and got superb efforts from sophomore center Marc Cavosie and freshman goaltender Nathan Marsters. The two were named ECAC Player and Rookie of the Week respectively.
Cavosie turned the hat trick with a power-play goal, a shorthander and an even-strength marker. He also added an assist for a four-point evening. His goal to finish the hat trick gave the Engineers the 5-4 lead after the Terriers had stormed back to tie the game at four.
“When I’m out there I try not to really think. I saw an opening and I spun,” he said about his third. “This summer I really worked hard. I’m a lot stronger, and my shot’s a lot harder.”
The young Engineers dressed seven freshmen and saw dividends as freshmen defenseman Scott Basiuk scored and goaltender Nathan Marsters made 32 saves in his Cherry and White debut.
“I guess it was in the back of everybody’s mind — how the goalie’s going to play being that we’ve never really seen him play before,” said Cavosie. “But he was excellent. He surprised me, actually. He made some huge saves on breakaways, on two-on-ones. He gave the team a little lift, got our heads out of our a**es and got us going, and we built on that.”
The effort vaulted the Engineers into the USCHO.com Top 15 this week at number 11, after placing 19th in the preseason poll two weeks ago.
“I think it’s just one of those things that as a team we want to be competitive,” said head coach Dan Fridgen. “There’s a process to get to the tradition that we’ve carried, a tradition such as BU has. And I think to beat them on their home ice is something we can use as confidence into our play, but I think there’s a lot of areas where we still have to get better. I think it’s a stepping stone in the process: In no way does this make a season. We’re keeping things in perspective.”
The Engineers will travel to face UMass-Lowell on Friday evening. Two years ago, the Engineers defeated BU to open the season and lost the next weekend at UMass-Lowell, 8-4.
Can I Have A Re-Test?
The Saints lost to Northeastern, 4-3, and Clarkson lost to Miami, 4-1, and then came back the next night to tie the RedHawks, 4-4.
“We competed extremely hard,” said Clarkson head coach Mark Morris. “We made some mistakes, but by and large, we showed a lot of character. I thought we played exceptionally well in the early going on Friday, but we were very, very undisciplined and not sharp around our own crease. We believe we are a very green team at this point of the season and we want to build upon this weekend.
“Saturday’s game was a positive sign for us that we are headed in the right direction. We are making a more concerted effort to follow our game plan.”
“We were outplayed by Northeastern in every area of the game with the exception of goaltending,” said Saint head coach Joe Marsh. “Jeremy Symington did a great job for us in the goal, and that made the score somewhat misleading.
“We obviously have a lot of work to do and we need a lot more spark if we are to be successful.”
The Saints will take part in the Black Bear Hockey Classic, where a potential matchup with Maine looms in the championship game, while the Golden Knights host Mercyhurst to open their season at home.
Union begins its tenth season at the Division I level this weekend with a game at home against Army. “There is a new sense of pride here,” junior goaltender Brandon Snee said. “Everyone wants to prove that Union is a contender at the Division I level.”
The Dutchmen came close to a huge upset in last year’s playoffs, losing to St. Lawrence in the quarterfinals. The Dutchmen gave the Saints a run for the money then, and they are hoping to work on that by claiming a second consecutive playoff bid, something that has only happened once in the nine years of the Union program at the Division I level.
“I’m hoping we can improve as a program,” said head coach Kevin Sneddon. “We got a little taste of playoff hockey last season; our players will use that experience and be in the mix in March, and maybe experience Lake Placid this season.”
Thanks to Dave Hendrickson and Scott Weighart for their contributions.