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.