BY: JEREMY LEOPOLD
Head Coach – Kevin Sneddon (12th Season)
Last Season – 20-15-3 (HE: 10-10-0) 7th place, lost in first round of NCAA tournament
Losses: F Chris McCarthy, F H.T. Lenz, F Anthony DeCenzo, F Pete Massar, F Matt White, F Connor Brickley, F Kyle Mountain, D Nick Bruneteau.
Newcomers: F Travis Blanleil , F Rob Darrar, D Mitch Ferguson, F Kevin Irwin, F Anthony Petruzzelli, D Trey Phillips, D Alexx Privitera,F Jarrid Privitera.
Last year, Vermont continued their rebuild, cementing themselves as a middle of the pack team at 10-10-0 in the Hockey East, a far cry from the 3-23-1 mark they posted in the conference just two seasons prior.
Coach Sneddon’s squad will look to continue their improvement this year despite the loss of seven senior forwards including their leading point scorer from a year ago (7th in Hockey East), Chris McCarthy, who graduated out of the program and signed with the Rangers organization.
With a below average offense last year, ranking 8th in the conference with 2.76 g/gm, those losses could be critical if the young guys don’t step up.
The Catamounts incoming class includes five new forwards but the player Vermont will need to rely on the most offensively will be sophomore forward Mario Puskarich. Puskarich enjoyed a breakout freshman campaign ranking 5th in the Hockey East in goals scored with 19 and racking up 36 points, good for 13th in the conference.
Defensively the Catamounts solid last year, ranking 4th in scoring defense. Despite the loss of Nick Bruneteau, Vermont’s blue liners should be solid yet again with another year of experience under the belt of what was a young squad last year.
In net the Catamounts don’t have a standout performer but they do have two solid young goalies that split time evenly last season. Both junior Brady Hoffman and sophomore Mike Santaguida return in net for Vermont and neither outplayed the other last season to solidify themselves as the frontrunner for this year. It will be interesting to watch who gets the majority of time in goal this season or if Coach Sneddon will elect to give them each equal ice time as he did last year.
For Sneddon’s squad to have success this upcoming season Puskarich is likely going to have to improve on his already impressive freshman season and hope that the void left by McCarthy’s offensively can be filled from either a breakout performer or a solid team effort. Defensively, look for the Catamounts to be even better this year, with their youth in the back finally coming of age.
Bottom line: Expect Vermont to be a little better than last year, and contend for another NCAA tournament berth. The offense is likely to take a tiny step back while they will continue to play above average defense. The Catamounts are likely two seasons away from cracking the top tier of teams in the tough Hockey East.