The last two national champions were also the champs of the Hockey East conference, arguably the strongest and most competitive conference in NCAA hockey.
For the Cats, however, recent success in the Hockey East tournament did not lead to success in their hunt for a national title.
Last year’s Frozen Four appearance was preceded by a poor showing in the Hockey East tournament, losing in the quarterfinals. The year before that, the Cat’s were in the Hockey East championship game against the eventual national champs Boston College, but failed to make the national tournament at all.
Last week the Cats made a big statement in the Hockey East tournament beating top-seeded University of New Hampshire in a three-game series.
While the first game was a difficult loss — 7-4 in a shootout after holding a 4-2 lead going into the third — the Cats bounced back and won the next two games 1-0 on Wildcat ice, the last of which was won in overtime.
The star of the series was sophomore goalie Rob Madore who, after a disappointing opening game, played with something to prove in the following two games.
Madore became the first goalie to give UNH back-to-back shutouts on home ice in the Wildcats’ 86-year history. One of these was a 34-save game to win the series in overtime.
“There were a couple of saves he made in overtime, I’m not sure how he did it,” Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon said. “It was almost one of those where my shoulders were beginning to drop because I thought we were done and he came up with some spectacular saves and really kept us in there.”
“It’s very nice to be able come back and have two more solid performances after kind of costing the team the first night,” Madore said. “That was as much of an offensive shutout as I’ve seen. Forwards were blocking shots and we just out muscled them in their defensive zone and they couldn’t handle us down low.”
The Catamounts again had trouble with the Hockey East Tournament, losing to Boston College in the semifinals.
The Cats did earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, though, and will take on Wisconsin on March 26.