I think the Catamounts are one of the more interesting teams in NCAA hockey this season. At a first glance, they’re not very impressive with a 2-3-1 record and a +1 goal differential but record doesn’t quite tell the whole story. The Catamounts have played four of their first six games on the road to start the season and will have played 8 of their first 10 away from home in a few weeks. Three of their six games so far have come against #9 Boston University and #7 St. Lawrence, in which they are 1-2-0. To round out their early season, they have a win on the road over Union and a draw and a loss against Robert Morris, also on the road.
I think the context paints a picture that has the Catamounts looking pretty good. But how good? Top half? Fringe top ten? Top ten? Let’s go game by game.
Game 1 at Union: Vermont wins 5-1 (shots 43-22)
This isn’t the Union team of old where they’re so solidified in the bottom spot that every game is over before it starts. They’re still probably a bottom-ten team, but they’re one that can play with some of the mid tier teams. They did not play with Vermont.
Game 2 vs. #9 Boston University: Vermont wins 3-2 (shots 39-40)
This was kind of a weird game where every goal was scored 4 on 4 or 4 on 3. Still, the Catamounts more than hung with a very solid Boston University team and they even took one more minor penalty.
Game 3/4 at Robert Morris: Vermont loses 3-2, draws 2-2 (shots 30-30, 15-35)
The Robert Morris series is one where the Catamounts start to not look so good. Still, it’s important to remember that Vermont had a 10 hour bus ride to this game on just four days rest. I can forgive them for falling a little flat in this series.
Games 5/6 at, vs. #7 St. Lawrence: Vermont loses 3-1, 2-1 (shots 26-29, 17-27)
St. Lawrence was probably Vermont’s toughest opponent all year and they played pretty well in both games. The Saints are a legitimate top ten team and may contend for the ECAC title.
So what’s going on here? The Catamounts are led by a solid top six and top pair including elite defender Taylor Willard who leads the team in shots with 28. Forwards get all the glory, but high caliber defenders that can minimize D-zone time and maximize O-zone time can be just as, if not more valuable.
Unfortunately there’s a pretty steep drop on defense after top pair Willard and Daria O’Neill. Willard and O’Neill have 39 shots and 6 points combined. The rest of the defenders have 13 points and 1 shot. It’s also worth noting that Vermont has iced just five defenders this season with Katherine Pate having yet to see the ice.
The verdict? Vermont is definitely a top-half team and a potential fringe top ten team. They’ll go as far as their heavy-minute players can carry them.