Newcomers set to play big roles for hockey


Phil Carruthers

The men’s hockey team celebrates after scoring a goal against the University of Maine March 3. The Catamounts opened their season with a 6-1 over the University of Waterloo.

Locria Courtright, Assistant Sports Editor

The 2016/17 men’s hockey season saw the Catamounts post their third 20-win season in the last four years, going 20-13-5.

Despite the year’s success, the ending was one UVM would like to forget, as the Cats were swept by Boston College in the Hockey East quarterfinals, conceding seven goals in both games.

The defeat is being used as motivation by the returning players, senior forward Rob Darrar said.

“That definitely left a mark on the returners,” Darrar said. “It wasn’t how we planned it, and it made guys work harder this summer and in the first couple weeks of school.”

There has been plenty of roster turnover, as the Catamounts graduated nine seniors and saw four other players leave the program. In their place are 12 first-year players, headlined by first-year forward Bryce Misley, who was drafted by the Minnesota Wild this summer.

Head coach Kevin Sneddon said he is excited by this crop of young talent and how they will likely be eased into the system.

“There’s a lot of exciting players,” Sneddon said. “The nice thing is they’re not necessarily forced to play top-six minutes right away.”

Vermont still has plenty of scoring, despite the graduation of last year’s top scorer Mario Puskarich.

Sophomore forward Ross Colton had a sensational rookie year, posting 27 points and earning a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie Team, while junior forward Brian Bowen had a breakout year, going from seven points as a first year to 27 in his sophomore year.

Colton can be even better this year, having done summer work to bulk up, Sneddon said.

“He’s put so much time and effort into getting stronger, and he looks really confident,” he said.

The team made an effort to get more size on defense in this year’s group.

Last year, the team was physically outmatched around the net, making it difficult for sophomore goalie Stefanos Lekkas to see and stop pucks, Sneddon said.

“We got beat up around the net a little bit,” he said. “Bringing in guys like [first-year defender] Cory Thomas and [first-year defender] Christian Evers, those guys are big bodies back there.”

Lekkas has gone from the team’s youngest to most experienced over the summer, as Pat Feeley and Mike Santaguida both graduated and were replaced by first-year goaltenders Tyler Harmon and Matt Beck. He has embraced his role as the veteran.

“Feeley and Santa did a great job of taking me under their wing last year, and I’m trying to do the same thing to Tyler and Matt,” Lekkas said.

This season’s schedule provides a challenge for the Catamounts. They will play 15 games against teams ranked in U.S. College Hockey Online’s preseason top 20, including six against teams in the top five.

Vermont plays an exhibition game Oct. 1 against the University of Waterloo at Gutterson Fieldhouse. They open the regular season at home Oct. 6 against Colorado College.