By: James Duffy
Head Coach – Kevin Sneddon, 14th season
Last Season – 15-22-3 (6-13-3 in Hockey East, 9th); lost in 2nd round of conference playoffs to Boston College
Losses – F Jonathan Turk, F Dan Senkbeil, D Yvan Pattyn, D Alexx Privitera, G Packy Munson
Newcomers – F Matt Alvaro, F Ross Colton, F Cameron Klein, F Derek Lodermeier, D Max Daigle, D Jake Massie, D Corey Moriarty, D Matt O’Donnell, G Stefanos Lekkas
The Catamounts struggles started before their season actually began. Vermont lost its preseason exhibition game against Acadia, and followed that up by going 2-6-1 to start the year. They managed to sweep UConn in the first round of the Hockey East Playoffs, and pushed BC to three games, but eventually fell short and ended a disappointing season. The biggest takeaway from the season was the emergence of freshman goaltender Packy Munson, who seemed poised to take the starting job from senior Mike Santaguida before deciding to transfer to Denver in another setback for the Catamounts.
Offensively, Vermont lost very little production this offseason. Turk and Senkbeil, the graduating forwards, were essentially non-factors in their senior seasons. Privitera, who finished fifth on the team in goals, is the biggest loss, but the five graduates combined for just 15 goals last year. The defense was hit much harder. Pattyn, the Catamount’s captain, and Privitera, a top pair defenseman, were essential on the blue line.
Vermont will look to incoming freshman Ross Colton to fill the void on offense. Colton was selected by Tampa Bay in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Draft after posting 66 points in 55 games with Cedar Rapids of the USHL. The team will also rely heavily on Mario Puskarich, Brendan Bradley and Jarrid Privitera, all of whom netted 10 goals last season. The team will also be looking for a rebound from senior forward Brady Shaw. Shaw led the team with 19 goals two seasons ago, but took a major step back last season and lit the lamp just 4 times.
On defense, sophomore Ori Abramson will need to step up, as he may find himself on the top pair. The team will also look to senior Rob Hamilton to lead the D corps, and sophomore Jake Kearley to continue to develop after a strong rookie season. Jake Massie, a former Hurricanes sixth round pick who was traded to the Blackhawks, looks to be the most promising incoming defenseman, and may claim a bottom six spot this season.
In net Vermont is going to need a breakout season from Santaguida, the only established goalie on the team. The Mississauga, Ontario native went 6-11-2 with a 2.65 goals against average and .913 save percentage last season. After strong freshman and sophomore seasons, the Catamounts are hoping Santaguida returns to form as their only other option are senior Pat Feeley, who has under 3 minutes of regular season experience and freshman Stefanos Lekkas.
Bottom Line – This season hinges on the back end for Vermont. Mike Santaguida will need to be strong in net in his senior season, and the team will need to find a way to replace Privitera and Pattyn on defense. The Catamounts will be able to score, but it remains to be seen if they can keep the puck out of their own net. If they can do that, they should be able to climb out of the cellar of Hockey East.