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Hockey goalie carries team to new heights

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Men’s hockey is sitting in third place in the Hockey East standings according to league records.

A centerpiece to the team’s overall success is standout first-year goaltender Stefanos Lekkas.

Lekkas, a native of Elburn, Illinois, came to Vermont from the U.S. Hockey League, a junior hockey league for amateur hockey players.

In the USHL, he played two full seasons with the Sioux Falls Stampede.

In his first season, Lekkas started 42 games and totaled a 2.76 goals against average, according to Elite Hockey Prospects, an online hockey statistics resource.

“I started skating at 5 years old and played forward and goalie,” Lekkas said. “At 10, I picked goalie.”

While playing at Sioux Falls, Lekkas was recruited heavily by UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon and his staff.

Lekkas said he models his play after Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.

“Quick’s a smaller guy, he plays his angles well and he is a great skater,” he said.

Lekkas committed to UVM after being introduced to the Burlington community, he said.

“Once I came to campus, I knew it was a place for me,” Lekkas said. “A mix of that was the program’s tradition. I was eager to get to this level.”

This season, as a first-year, Lekkas has started 20 of the team’s 26 games, according to UVM athletics.

In the 20 games Lekkas started, the team’s record is 14-5-1, and the goalie has a 2.39 goals against average, according to UVM athletics.

Lekkas was namd a semifinalist for the 65th Walter Brown Award, which is presented annually to the best American-born collee hockey player in New England, according to UVM athletics.

Teammates and coaches praise the young goaltender for his focus and poise, two qualities that aren’t often seen in first-year athletes at this level.

“He’s really relaxed for a first-year,” senior captain Mario Puskarich said. “He is a huge key to our success.”

Sneddon had nothing but praise for Lekkas with regards to the young star and his work ethic.

“Lekkas is mentally tough and detail oriented. Stef is a huge competitor; every puck matters to him,” he said. “He is very athletic, and is one of college hockey’s best first-year goaltenders.”

That same work ethic praised by Sneddon is seen by his teammates as well.

“He battles whether it’s a Monday or a Thursday,” Puskarich said. “He is a great kid and great teammate.”

The team as a whole is enjoying great success, holding a record of 16-8-2 according to UVM athletics. Teammates attribute much of their success to the play of their team’s first-year goalie.

“Lekkas doesn’t get too high or low; he’s really focused,” Puskarich said. “He always makes that one electric, big save.”

With all of the praise being directed at Lekkas, the young goaltender believes the team as a whole should be given credit, he said.

“The team we have here is pretty special, and the rest of college hockey is starting to see it too,” Lekkas said.

Vermont men’s hockey is ranked No. 12 in the nation, according to NCAA records.

With eight games remaining on the schedule before the conference tournament, the first-year goaltender believes the team is going to make a splash this postseason.

“I think everyone in our room knows we can make a run and expects to make a run,” Lekkas said.

The Catamounts will host the University of New Hampshire Feb. 10 and 11, before traveling to No. 1 Boston College Feb. 17 and 18.

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