Cats Light Up St. Francis Xavier in Opener

Friday night the UVM hockey cats picked up right where they left off in Gutterson Fieldhouse last March, heading home victorious, throttling St. Francis Xavier 10-3. Just over 4 minutes into the game the Cats struck first with junior Ryan Gunderson lighting the lamp off a pass from freshman Corey Carlson. As if that wasn’t enough, barely two minutes later, sophomore Torrey Mitchell scored as well, using some incredible moves to beat one St. Francis defender before putting it past the goaltender to make the score 2-0. The score would be 3-0 in favor of Vermont before the end of the first period with Chris Myers scoring on a pass from senior captain Jaime Sifers. The offensive barrage carried into the second period and within the first minute of play Jeff Corey made the score 4-0 on a goal with assists from linemates Brady Leisenring and Torrey Mitchell. Seven minutes later, the score became 5-0 on the second third of Mitchell’s hat trick (his final tally would come in the third period). At the end of two periods the score was 6-1 and the sellout crowd was able to kick back and enjoy the fine first night of hockey, one that included hard hitting and fine work with the puck. The crisp puckhandling was noticeable from the start and impressed head coach Kevin Sneddon who said, “I’m seeing some good things out of their own creativity, which we can now build on.” He also noted they still had plenty to work on, most notably “stuff without the puck.” During the third period Vermont and St. Francis combined for 6 more goals, making it 10-3 at the end of the night. The lopsided score gave the UVM coaches a great opportunity to give the newcomers some game experience and they did not disappoint. Their energy was infectious even late in the game, as the freshman line of Dean Strong, Corey Carlson, and Peter Lenes provided an exciting glimpse into the future. Sneddon commented, “Corey Carlson must have had 15 shots on goal; it seemed like it. Dean Strong was extraordinary in all aspects of the game; he was first to pucks, he was handling the physical play and he did some good things offensively and defensively.” Of Lenes (who reminded some fans of former Catamount great Martin St. Louis), the coach said, “Peter’s going to be a special player…he did some great things out there.” The head Catamount had similarly high praise for the veterans, highlighting their superb conditioning and the hard work they put in during the off-season. He specifically noted his first line of Leisenring, Corey, and Mitchell, touching on their intensity, chemistry, and love of playing the game together. The atmosphere was similar to that of a playoff game. The rink was filled with intensity from the get-go, and both teams were guilty of several penalties for physical play. All told, the teams combined for 29 penalties, three game misconducts, one ejection, and more than a few times the players had to be separated on the ice before things got out of hand. Coach Sneddon was quick to show the fans some appreciation, proclaiming, “We play in front of the best fans in college hockey.” These fans were loud and proud Friday night, giving the home team an invaluable edge as well as giving themselves hoarse throats for the weekend. As the game became a rout, the fans started a wave that flew around the arena multiple times. Sneddon encouraged the fans to continue to come out for games, especially the students who jump-start the rest of the crowd. This season opener was a far cry from that of a year ago, one in which the Cats were on the ugly side of a 7-1 loss to Maine and were at the bottom of college hockey looking up to teams such as Boston College, UNH, and Maine. The team was young and shrouded in questions. This year the Cats come into the season ranked 19th in the nation, in the same conference as those college hockey heavyweights, and are recognized as one of the more dangerous teams in the nation. And if Friday night was any indicator, this should be a fun and exciting year in Catamount country. The Cats’ next game is next Friday, October 14th when they travel to Anchorage Alaska to take on Michigan Tech in a tournament at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. The Cats’ next home game is October 21 against Minnesota-Duluth.