Huskies Bite Back in Shootout Victory Over Vermont

By Dale Desantis

Sunday night’s game started out smoking hot once again for the Huskies, as an early power play set the tone for the early part of the period.

Northeastern had nearly every good opportunity early on as they outmatched Vermont and kept the puck in the offensive zone. The Vermont defense did a good job controlling the pressure of Aidan McDonough and Riley Hughes as they defended some very close scoring opportunities. On the other end, the best scoring chance came early on as Vermont had a three-on-one breakaway that Northeastern goalie Connor Murphy halted.

Soon after Vermont had their first power-play attempt, Julian Kislin made his way into the sin bin for holding. During the power play, Northeastern shot themselves in the foot, as they got called for too many men on the ice when Marco Bozzo entered far too early on a five-on-three.

By the end of first, Vermont more than made up for their lack of offense at the outset. They lacked skill in the Northeastern zone, but got enough pucks in front of the Northeastern edge to earn a slight edge going into the second. If it had been a boxing match, the refs would give round one to the Catamounts. But the scoreless first period meant that there would be no free french fries offered at a Burlington establishment.

Meanwhile, goaltender Tyler Harmon was getting busy in the Catamount net throughout the first half of the game. His strong presence helped keep the game equal as he stymied the Northeastern offense time after time. On the other end, Murphy faced only three strong scoring opportunities, most on breakaways.

The young group of Matt DeMelis, TJ Walsh, and McDonough created some of the best opportunities in the second period. Walsh probably would have snuck one in if not for a spectacular save from Tyler Harmon to keep the game level. This crew seems poised to be a veritable goal-scoring threat through the season if they continue to grow and get more comfortable with each other.

It was a pretty tame game until a Zach Solow fall sparked the Huskies. Northeastern would soon after be assessed their first power play of the period on a tripping call, and a DeMelis tip of a Riley Hughes slapper broke the scoreless tie.

Soon after, Jacques Bouquot finished a rebound of the post to bring Vermont back level. It was one of the Catamounts’ few even-strength goals this year, as the team responded extremely well going into the break.

Early in the third, a muffed clear from Vermont fell to Northeastern’s Ty Jackson, who drove home Northeastern’s fifth power play of the year. The power play has been a strong suit for Northeastern all year and tonight it provided a bevy of their offensive opportunities. 

But déjà vu struck, as Vermont quickly tied the game on a Ray Vitolins goal.

The game was pretty sterile for the most part, as solid goalie play kept the game tied 2–2 through the third period. Although it was a back-and-forth affair, it felt Vermont was very much in the game and just couldn’t come up with that much-needed go-ahead goal.

As the game moved through overtime and into a shootout, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine played hero once again as three Connor Murphy saves made him the lone scorer in the shootout. The game goes down as a tie for record purposes, but Northeastern gets two points instead of the typical one point for a tie (and three points for a regular win).

The Huskies will return to the ice Friday night.

2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: Vermont Catamounts

Last season: 5–23–6 (2–18–4, 11th in Hockey East)

Head coach: Todd Woodcroft (first season)

Preseason poll projected finish: 11th

Departures: D Corey Moriarty, F Derek Lodermeier, D Matt O’Donnell, D Johnny DeRoche, F Riley McCutcheon, F Max Kaufman, F Matt Alvaro, F Thomas Beretta, G Stefanos Lekkas

Additions: F Whim Stalberg, D Conner Hutchison, F Azzaro Tinling, D Phip Waugh, F Noah Jordan, F Dovar Tinling, F Ray Vitolins, F Mickey Burns, G Gabe Carriere, F Jordan Kaplan

By Dale Desantis

Vermont has had an interesting tenure in college hockey to say the least. Even though they have produced top talents such as John LeClair and Martin St. Louis, the team has only one conference championship and a handful of NCAA appearances to show for it 

After finishing dead last in the division last year, Vermont brought in Winnipeg Jets assistant coach Todd Woodcroft  to fill the shoes of retiring 17-year head coach Kevin Sneddon. For the team to be successful, Woodcroft will need to introduce new talent to all positions. Their offense was abysmal last season with only 59 goals in all competitions, significantly worse than 10th-place Merrimack with 85 goals. Their leading scorer was junior Ace Cowan with seven goals, while Andrew Lucas and Jacques Bouquot reached double digits in assists.

There are ten members of Coach Woodruff’s inaugural freshman class. Half are Canadian with three Americans, a Swede, and a Latvian. Perhaps if they recruit extensively abroad, they can build up their roster more quickly through different talent streams. Without many returning studs, this would be a solid way to become competitive.

Bottom Line: Vermont is projected to finish last in the conference this season, and are unlikely to rise much in the standings. The goal this year will be improving incrementally to build a foundation for the future.

Hockey East Preview: Vermont Catamounts

Last Season: 12–19–3 (5–16–3 HE, 10th place); missed HE playoffs

Head Coach: Kevin Sneddon (17th season)

Coaches’ Poll Projected Finish: 10th

Losses

  • F Thomas Aldworth
  • F Liam Coughlin
  • F Martin Frechette
  • D Jake Massie
  • F Conor O’Neil
  • F Craig Puffer

Additions

  • F Jacques Bouquot
  • F Simon Boyko
  • F William Lemay
  • D Andrew Lucas
  • F Riley McCutcheon
  • F Thomas Beretta

By Matt Neiser

It was a forgettable 2018–19 campaign for the Vermont Catamounts, who finished second-to-last in Hockey East after accumulating just five wins in conference play. The Catamounts closed out the season with a winless month, going 0–5–1 over their final six games. Not ideal.

The lone bright spot for Vermont was goaltender Stefanos Lekkas, who was one of the best netminders in the country last season. The rising senior posted a ridiculous .930 save percentage and a 2.27 goals against average, earning him spots as a Hockey East Second Team All-Star and Mike Richter Award semifinalist.

There were rumors swirling in March that Lekkas had entered the NCAA transfer portal, but — much to the relief of Catamount fans everywhere — he dispelled those rumors and reaffirmed his commitment to Vermont for his senior year.

Head coach Kevin Sneddon’s Catamounts play a physical brand of hockey, relying on their size and muscle to tire teams out and keep pucks away from the net. Combined with the stellar goaltending of Lekkas, it makes for a rather formidable defense. Despite ranking in the bottom 15 in the nation in wins, Vermont registered a top-15 goals against per game average (2.41).

It’s the other end of the ice that keeps the Cats from putting up Ws. They netted an abysmal 2.12 goals per game last season, the eighth-worst mark in the nation. No player reached double-digits in scoring; the top mark was freshman forward Joey Cipollone with nine goals.

Luckily for the Catamounts, they are returning six of their top seven goalscorers from last season. Junior Max Kaufman (eight goals, 13 assists) and senior captain Derek Lodermeier (five goals, 13 assists) will likely join Cipollone on the first line. Other key offensive contributors will be juniors Vlad Dzhioshvili and Alex Esposito, a couple of six-footers who combined for 13 goals and 16 assists as sophomores last season. 

The loss of defenseman Jake Massie to the NHL will hurt the Catamounts on the blue line, but they have the depth to help fill that void. Senior Matt O’Donnell added five goals and eight assists last year, valuable contributions for a team with offensive struggles. Juniors Owen Grant (one goal, two assists) and Christian Evers (two goals, five assists) will be key contributors as well, while senior Corey Moriarty, sophomore Carter Long, and junior Cory Thomas will provide much-needed stability and depth.

One intriguing addition to this year’s squad is freshman Jacques Bouquot. The 6’ 0” freshman initially committed to Boston College before ending up with Vermont. A skilled two-way center with enough talent to pop up in 2019 NHL Draft discussions, Bouquot is a wild card and potential game-changer for the Catamounts.

Bottom Line: Having Lekkas at the back will keep the Catamounts in some games, but the offensive skill just isn’t there for Vermont right now. No matter how good your defense is, you have to score — and the Catamounts haven’t shown they can do that consistently. Barring breakout years for multiple players, expect Vermont to struggle to compete for a playoff spot come March.