2010-2011 men’s hockey preview

The 2010-2011 men’s hockey team opens up the season with high expectations as they come away from their second straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

The team earned at-large bids to the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons. Last year, they made it to the semi-finals in the Hockey East tournament, where they were defeated by Boston College, the 2010 national champion.

The Catamounts were recently picked to finish sixth in the demanding Hockey East conference by the Hockey East Association Preseason Coaches Poll.

It’s no surprise that the rankings were competitive, as a Hockey East team has claimed the national championship the past three years.

Though this title has yet to be held by the Catamounts, the team is hopeful for a successful campaign this season.

“This team, I think we’re ready to embark on another journey. I think that our focus is going to be on being more consistent, more prepared,” head coach Kevin Sneddon said. “I think we had some ups and downs last year, we learned from those though.”

To help them accomplish their goals, the Catamounts will need consistent production from their defensive unit. The team is returning five starting defensemen, including current captain senior Kevan Miller.

Along with experience, size will be an asset to the defense as the defensemen are on average 6 feet 3 inches tall and 217 pounds.

“Guys have done a great job in the offseason, getting strong, getting bigger. I think everyone’s put on a couple of pounds,” Miller said. “I think that experience you know now going into my senior year with a couple of the other guys, and then also the new guys coming in came in great shape, I think that will be good for us this year.”

Now a junior, starting goaltender Rob Madore will also be providing defensive support in the net for Vermont for the third consecutive year.

“I know Rob is very focused, very prepared you know to be consistent from the start of the season right through to the end,” Sneddon said. “When he does that, because I know he will, he’ll emerge as one of the best goaltenders in college hockey, no doubt. In front of him I think our strength lies in our defensive corps.”

On the offensive side, the Catamounts do not have the same fortune with returning starters. Last season’s top three scorers — Brayden Irwin, Colin Vock and Brian Roloff — were lost to graduation at the end of the year.

Senior assistant captain, forward Jack Downing, is the team’s top returning scorer and former defenseman senior Josh

Burrows will now be a permanent fixture at forward after making the switch for the final stretch of last season.

The loss of key goal-scorers leaves the door open for new members of the team to make an impact and battle for playing time as Vermont welcomed five new forwards to their roster this year.

“There’s no question that we can replace that offense. It’s just going to depend on who it is and how long it takes to get it going,” Sneddon said.

The team kicked off the season Oct. 3. with an exhibition game against the University of New Brunswick. The Catamounts were defeated 3-2.