Northeastern continues Hockey East play this weekend with two games at home, taking on Vermont on Friday and then welcoming in Boston College on Saturday. We will have previews of each team individually. This post will preview the Vermont Catamounts, who enter the contest 10th in the Hockey East standings with a 1-3-1 conference record, and a 3-7-1 record overall. The Huskies will play Vermont two more times in the second half of the season.
Vermont has had a disappointing start to the season after shutting out Colorado College in their opening game. Their offense ranks 47th (out of 60) in the nation, scoring only 2.45 goals per game, and their defense clocks in at 44th in the nation, allowing 3.27 goals. That is recipe for disaster when facing Northeastern’s top ranked offense (4.30 goals per game).
In terms of possession, Vermont has struggled there as well. Their Corsi % overall sits at 45.7%, which is 7th-worst in the nation. The percentages creep up slightly in close situations (score tied or within one goal) to 46.7%, but whether on the powerplay or at even strength, their possession numbers are below 50%, indicating they have the puck less than half the time. The also have been out-attempted by nearly 10 shot attempts, and over 8 shots on goal, per game. Their powerplay clicks at 18.4%, which is below average. Their penalty kill, which for years has been a strength of the Catamounts, is once again stellar, succeeding 90% of the time.
In terms of scoring, the Catamount offense is driven by sophomore Ross Colton, who has 8 goals (0 assists) on the season. Colton also leads Vermont in shots on net, totalling 48 in 11 games, more than double the next-highest total by a teammate. Colton is also shooting 16.7% on the season, which is quite high, even for a skilled player such as himself. Defenseman Matt O’Donnell has been driving the offense from the blue line, also tallying 8 points (4 goals) in 11 games. In total, 11 different Vermont players have scored a goal, and 21 have registered a point. Promising freshmen Bryce Misley (2 assists) and Alex Esposito (3 assists) have been relatively quiet to start the year.
In goal, Stefanos Lekkas returns to the crease as the goaltender, playing in all 11 games for Vermont. He has put up below-average numbers this season after taking college hockey by storm to start last season, registering a 90.8 save percentage and a goals-against-average of 3.27.
We had a chance to speak with the Vermont Hockey Blog, and ask them some questions related to the Catamounts and this weekend.
NUHB: UVM has had 11 different goal scorers this season but 8 of their 27 have come from Ross Colton, including 5 on the powerplay. Is it safe to say he is the straw that stirs the UVM drink, and are there any other scorers that NU should watch for that may not be lighting up the stat sheet?
VTHB: Last year the story for UVM was how spread out the offense was. This year I’ve felt we’ve over-relied on Colton. He’s the only guy where this season, when he gets the puck, I feel confident that there might be a scoring chance. We’ve been getting killed in possession this year. 2. I’d say he’s up there, a key power play quarterback and offensive d-man who can move and rush the puck. He got a lot stronger over the summer. As for him on the back end, he is a bit smaller so he’s usually paired with a bigger guy (usually Christian Evers or Cory Thomas) that can get back if he’s caught up the ice.
NUHB: It seems that every year Vermont has a solid offensive defenseman or two. This year, Matt O’Donnell is filling that roll (4-4-8 in 11 games so far). Is he the second-most important skater for UVM behind Colton?
VTHB: I’d say he’s up there, a key power play quarterback and offensive d-man who can move and rush the puck. He got a lot stronger over the summer. As for him on the back end, he is a bit smaller so he’s usually paired with a bigger guy (usually Christian Evers or Cory Thomas) that can get back if he’s caught up the ice.
NUHB: After starting off extremely well last season, goaltender Stefanos Lekkas seems to have crashed back to a level of average-ness. Is this worrisome for you going up against a vaunted Huskies offense?
VTHB: Lekkas has been one of the few bright spots this year, actually. Our defense has been appallingly bad and he’s had to make big saves in order to keep us from getting blown out. WE still have had some blowout L’s though, and at some point I’d like to see our freshman backup get some run. I am VERY much concerned about our porous defense against that lethal NU offense though, yikes.
NUHB: Any players we have not named yet that you expect to be major players this weekend?
VTHB: Not really. This year’s team has not only been bad so far, they’ve been boring. They’ve gotten outshot by a 2-1 rate on multiple occasions, and some of the players just don’t look like they care all that much.
Final Thoughts: Simply put, this is a game Northeastern should win. They are the more talented team, with the better offense, defense, and goaltending. At the same time, Vermont has historically played Northeastern tough, and this has the makings of a “trap game” if the Huskies are looking ahead to playing Boston College on Saturday.
Predictions: (2 points for correct result, +1 for correct score, -1 for incorrect result)