Two seasons for the record books

Are Viktor Stalberg, Dean Strong and Rob Madore the next Eric Perrin, Martin St. Louis and Tim Thomas?

While only time will tell whether such a bold claim is true, one fact remains — both trios led their incarnation of Catamount men’s hockey through many ups and downs to an enthralling Frozen Four appearance.

The 1996 team ended their season with an overall record of 27-7-4, and 17-2-3 within their conference, which at the time was the ECAC.

The ’96 Cats finished in first place for the regular season, then went to Cincinnati Ohio for the Frozen Four where they were defeated by Colorado College.

Colorado College went on to be beaten by the Michigan Wolverines, who were on their way to their eighth overall national title.

The 1996 Frozen Four appearance was the first for the Catamounts, leading to some serious excitement at UVM and all of Burlington.

“It feels to me like there was a bit more hype surrounding the ’96 team,” Assistant Athletic Director for Student Life Services Joe Gervais said. “There was a charter flight to Cincinnati full of fans and the whole town of Burlington seemed focused on the game.”

As for the 2008-2009 team, they ended their season with a record of 22-12-5 and a 15-8-4 record in Hockey East competition.

They were defeated by Boston University in their semi-final game and BU went on to win the national title.

This season’s team is in Hockey East as opposed to the ECAC, where Vermont competed in 1996.

Vermont now faces tougher competitors more often now that they share a conference with the likes of BU, Boston College and Northeastern.

UVM also has a different head coach in Harvard alum Kevin Sneddon.

The 1996 team was coached by Mike Gilligan who now continues to work at UVM as an assistant coach for the women’s ice hockey team.

“I think the biggest similarity between these teams is their consistency throughout the season,” Gervais said. “It’s very difficult to sustain excellence throughout the long season and there will always be some swings in momentum, but both the ’96 team and this year’s team were very consistent throughout.”

“In my opinion, both teams went through a process where they established their identity,” Vermont goaltending coach Terry Lovelette said. “The players on both teams were able to sort out their roles and then go about executing that role in an unselfish way.”
In terms of individuals on both teams, the 1996 team was helped by the talents of St. Louis, Perrin and the goaltending of Thomas.

As for the 2009 team, it was players like forward Viktor Stalberg and freshman goalie Rob Madore who led the way for the Catamounts.

“I think with every successful team you have a handful of stars and a deep and talented supporting cast,” Lovelette said. “So, the 1996 team and this year’s version of the Catamounts are very similar in that regard.

Both teams had their own strengths and weaknesses throughout the seasons, ending with their respective Frozen Four runs.

“I wouldn’t say that one team was better than the other,” Lovelette said. “Each team had an excellent season, so I would call this one a tie.”

Gervais, however, had a different perspective on the debate.

“This is tough, but I’ll say that the ’96 team wins in double overtime on a St. Louis goal assisted by Perrin.”