Ice hockey returning to “The Gut”

Men’s Hockey

Coming off a Frozen Four appearance last year, the men’s hockey team has high expectations this season. Though they are hungry to get back to the top, they will have to overcome the loss of several key players to get there.

“Probably our biggest challenge this year is to focus on what’s important now,” head coach Kevin Sneddon said. “I was proud of the fact that we were able to contribute to our rich tradition here known as Vermont hockey, but at the same time, this is a new journey.”

A huge difficulty in moving on to a new season is the loss of standout forward Viktor    Stalberg, who signed an NHL contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs and recently earned a roster spot for the 2009 season.

Stalberg was the team’s leading scorer last year and was the fourth player in UVM history to be a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given each year to the best player in college hockey.

Stalberg left UVM after his junior year to sign with Toronto. Sneddon said that he is happy for Stalberg’s early success in the NHL and feels Stalberg and Torrey Mitchell — a former Catamount hockey captain now playing for the San Jose Sharks — have made the right decision.

“I don’t have a problem with it at all when you see the success they are having with it immediately,” Sneddon said. “They made the right decision, as tough as it was.”

Women’s Hockey

The women’s hockey team finished up last season with an 8-25-1 overall record and a 5-15-1 record in Hockey East and were picked to finish seventh in Hockey East this season in the Hockey East’s Preseason Coaches Poll.

Though the team did not make the playoffs last year, they have high hopes for the upcoming season.

To help them along the way, the team is welcoming new associate head coach Grant Kimball.

Kimball comes to UVM from the University of North Dakota, where he was an assistant coach for two years.

The team returns 18 players from last year, including the majority of their leading scorers.
“We’re very excited about the senior group this year and the juniors behind them,” head coach Tim Bothwell said. “As a group, we have more experience with the systems we’re trying to abide by game in and game out.”

The team has typically brought in large recruiting classes each year, but has shifted this year to a small class of only four freshmen.

“It’s a smaller, tighter, more of a family type of feel,” Bothwell said.  “It was a conscious choice by us.”

The team’s main goal this year is to make their first-ever postseason appearance. Bothwellsaid they plan to do this by focusing on defensive.

“It’s a real focus this year to block more shots, limit more scoring opportunities,” Bothwell said.