Coach York and his crew will have that series fresh on their minds as they travel up to Burlington for a weekend series with the Catamounts, starting tomorrow night at 7 PM. It has been an up and down year for the Cats as they are 12-16-3, good for 7th place. UVM lost its top player from last season as defenseman Mike Paliotta is now in the Columbus Blue Jackets organization after being traded from Chicago. Outside of Paliotta and goaltender Brody Hoffman, UVM didn't lose much from a squad that stunned the Eagles but they have had a tough time putting the puck in the net at times this year. Junior Mario Puskarich is their best player with 25 points on the season, which is tops on the team by a long shot but unfortunately for Sneddon and his staff, a couple of players have taken a step back. Brady Shaw has only 3 goals on the season after leading the team a year ago in that category with 19. Senior Jonathan Turk's production has decreased a bit, and starting goaltender Mike Santaguida hasn't played in two months due to injury. Freshman Packy Munson is expected to get the start and thus far, he has posted a 2.20 goals against average and .920 save percentage in 15 games played. Despite the inexperience, I think Vermont's biggest asset is their blue line because every year, they seem to be one of the top defensive teams in Hockey East. They will be led the senior duo of Alexx Privitera and Yvan Pattyn, who are, ironically, the only Catamount defenders that played in the BC game last Spring (assuming Abramson does not start). BC's superior speed will undoubtedly cause some problems for a UVM defense that is systemically terrific but might not have the skill set its had in the past-I wouldn't be surprised if Pattyn and Privitera are out there every other shift. Up front, Puskarich is the guy to watch but freshman Liam Coughlin, a CM product, is their only NHL draft pick (6th round, Edmonton) and has put together a solid season. In the games I have watched, Vermont has rolled four lines and just last weekend, the bottom unit produced some points versus New Hampshire. I will be intrigued to see whether they decide to give a regular shift to those guys because if it becomes BC's top 3 lines vs UVM's, I like our chances.
I never guarantee victories but I can say this with 100% certainty- BC will come out ready to play this weekend. The pairwise and Hockey East standings are obviously of extreme importance but these games are all about exacting some revenge. The display Vermont put on after that game a season ago was nothing but ridiculous, they won a Hockey East playoff series and you would have thought it was the Stanley Cup. The BC players and coaches will tell you that this is a new year and a totally different (and much better) team. True, of course, but they have that series in the back of their minds and I think they're going to play tremendous hockey. Last weekend, outside of the first period on Friday, was a struggle as Merrimack took it to them at times. The first order of business is they have to play better in their own end, particularly in front of Thatcher Demko. They allowed Merrimack to drive to the net and create opportunities in-between the circles far too often and paid the price with a disappointing tie. Look for the Eagles to put an emphasis on getting out in space, creating plays through the neutral zone, and trying to get the pace of the game as high as possible. I can't say too much about injuries but hopefully Matthew Gaudreau will be able to give it a go after that vicious hit last weekend ( I can't believe Hockey East did not issue a suspension).
If we look at the national picture, depending on what happens with other games, if BC is able to pick up two wins this weekend, they are a lock for the NCAA tournament and in a prime position for the #1 overall seed. That being said, they have to be ready to go tomorrow night.
Record- 12-16-3 (32nd in pairwise)
Leading scorers- Mario Puskarich (8-17-25), Jarrid Privitera (10-7-17), Brendan Bradley (9-8-17)
Team offense- 2.26 goals per game (50th)
Team defense- 2.61 goals against per game (27th)
Power play-13% (46th)
Penalty kill-78% (50th)
Shots on goal per game- 31.87 shots per game (27th)
Keys for BC-
1. They must be better in the defensive end. It starts with staying out of the box but they need to limit UVM's chances from the slot and around Demko by trying to keep the majority of their shots to the perimeter.
2. Force Vermont out of their comfort zone. The Eagles have had success in this building the past few years because they've been able to jump out to early leads and compel Vermont into playing a game they don't want to play.
3. Capitalize on the power play. Vermont's penalty kill is one of the worst in the country (50th), which means the Eagles must take advantage when given the chances.
Notes- Gaudreau's status is up in the air- I think he might play. Calnan is still hurting.