Strong Cat leading the charge

When pressed to find the catalyst behind the UVM men’s hockey team’s meteoric rise to prominence, not only within the Hockey East conference, but also nationally, one needs to look no further than the team’s senior captain and undeniable leader – senior Dean Strong.

Strong has recently received a great amount of notoriety throughout the college hockey world after reaching the 100 career point plateau, but he is the last person you can expect to boast about his newfound status alongside UVM’s elite.

“It definitely feels good,” Strong said of his ascension to the 100-point mark. “I still wouldn’t compare myself to some of those better players, but it’s a cool thing, and I’ll take it for sure.”

The humble captain’s true value to his team can’t be measured by numbers alone, however.

A hard-nosed forward who has made a name for himself with his defensive prowess and an ability to set up teammates for crucial goals, Strong has epitomized what it means to lead by example. He has never missed a game in more than three years of service as a Catamount.

Faceoffs, the facet of hockey which is sometimes the most ignored or overlooked in the stat column, are where Strong truly excels.

“He’s been that way for four years,” Boston College coach Jerry York said. “Nobody has really been able to handle him in faceoff situations.

“I don’t think there is a player in our league that controls the faceoff dot as well as Dean does.”

The Jan. 10 game, which saw Strong reach the 100-point milestone en route to the Catamounts knocking off then No. 9 Boston College, was quite possibly the best summation of Strong’s skill set and his value to the men’s hockey team at UVM.

After assisting on two key goals directly from faceoffs during the game the previous night, Strong repeated his two-assist performance while going an impressive 14 for 20 on faceoffs.

“I think I had something a little bit natural with [faceoffs] from the start, even when I was younger,” Strong said. “It’s a real important part of the game for us, so I just try to bear down whenever I get the chance.”

There is perhaps no other two-word phrase which could serve as a better mantra for Strong’s style of play than “bear down.”

He is the type of captain every coach dreams of, in the sense that he skates as hard as possible every shift, does all of the little things right and is generally the last player off the ice, whether it be during a game or practice.

With his blend of skill and fierce work ethic, Strong has certainly assured that he will not be soon forgotten by UVM’s faithful hockey fans when he graduates this spring. Yet he still remains focused on the improvement of his team rather than personal records or accomplishments.

“I just hope that the guys around me in the locker room appreciate myself and the coaching staff,” Strong said.

“We’re all one and I just hope that I’ve been a good leader for them, day in and day out, on and off the ice, for the four years – that’s all I can ask for.”