Hockey East Preview – University of Vermont Catamounts

By: Jeremy Leopold

0146985f69a40a2d4993aeea2b76e298-300x300Head Coach – Kevin Sneddon (13th season)

Last season – 22-15-4 (HE: 10-9-3), 7th place

Losses: F Colin Markison, F Jake Fallon, F Kyle Reynolds, D Nick Luukko, D Mike Paliotta, G Brody Hoffman

Newcomers: D Jake Kearley,D Mike Lee, F Liam Coughlin, F Brian Bowen, F Conor O’Neil, F Tyler Gernhofer, F Craig Puffer, F Drew Best, G Packy Munson

Sneddon’s squad got off to a blazing start last season, winning 15 of their first 19, but fizzled down the stretch leaving them just out of contention for a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Known for their defense, the Catamounts didn’t disappoint, finishing 4th in the conference in goals allowed per game. The offense, which shined early on, scored north of 3.5 goals per game in the first 19 contests, but struggled to finish the season with the same luster, scoring a hair over 2.1 goals per game in the next 23. Vermont did manage to rally in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs, beating Boston College in the quarterfinals to advance to the semi’s, where UMass Lowell put a 4-1 beat down on Vermont to end their tournament hopes.

This year’s team still looks to be in pretty good shape despite key losses on both sides of the ice. The biggest loss comes along the blue line where Mike Paliotta played out his eligibility and took his team leading 37 points and +15 plus/minus to the NHL. On the offensive end, the graduation of Colin Markison and Jake Fallon will be tough because they were the fourth and sixth leading point scorers on the team respectively. Between the three of those players, a huge chunk of the playmaking duties are gone as they combined for 84 points last season.

The Catamounts still have some firepower, however, as they return a trio of dynamic rising juniors led by “Super” Mario Puskarich, who netted 11 goals last season on his way to a 24-point sophomore campaign. Joining Puskarich is Brady Shaw, who broke out last year with a 19-goal season, and Brendan Bradley, who will have to do even better than an impressive 17-assist season to fill the playmaking void left by the graduating class.

On the defensive side of the ice, Alexx Privitera will look to build on an excellent junior season in which he had 19 assists en route to 26 points. While Privitera is a skilled two-way defensive player, Yvan Pattyn will look to be a bruiser, a staple in Sneddon coached teams, after he had a disappointing junior year. Despite playing in all 41 games for the Catamounts last year, he finished with an even plus/minus rating despite Vermont outscoring opponents by 19 goals over the course of the season. He will need to play better for the Catamounts to have success on the defensive end.

Anchoring Vermont in net will be junior Mike Santaguida. With the departure of Brody Hoffman to the Minnesota Wild, the job should be Santaguida’s full time this season after playing well in part-time duties last year. His .910 save percentage ranked eighth in the conference out of 15 goalies that qualified, and his 2.17 goals against average was good for fourth in Hockey East. Look for Santiguida to have continued success this year especially now in a full time capacity.

Bottom Line: The loss of Paliotta is going to hurt a lot, but the Catamounts are still poised to compete with the big dogs in Hockey East. With Sneddon’s defensive mentality coupled with some firepower on offense, Vermont will look to be a top-five finisher in the conference this season.

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