Weekend Preview: Vermont Catamounts

After two exhilarating come-from-behind victories at Matthews Arena last weekend, the Huskies will hit the road for their second out-of-state road trip of the season. This weekend, as is the case until the end of December, the Huskies will only play one game, this time a Friday night tilt against the University of Vermont at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

The Huskies will play a total of three games against Vermont this season, with two home dates in February after the Beanpot. The Huskies will also travel to Burlington to participate in the Catamount Cup in late December, where they will take on RPI and Alabama-Huntsville (featuring former Huskies goalie Jake Theut) in two pre-determined matchups.

Scouting the Enemy– Vermont comes into this game sporting an overall record of 3-5-0, and a conference record of 1-4-0. Their season started off with a major upset win over preseason darling Michigan at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor, but poorer fortunes have followed the Catamounts since then. Their lone Hockey East win came in a home overtime win against UConn, and their only other victory was at the hands of Brown, who is expected to be near the cellar of the ECAC once again. Most recently, Vermont was swept by Boston College in games they lost 4-1 and 3-2, and they were outshot by a combined total of 72-55 for a margin of 17 shots.

As is the case with a Kevin Sneddon team, Vermont plays a physical brand of hockey that may not always produce offensive results, but is exceedingly good at frustrating opponents any given night. The backbone of a team like this is always the goalie, and junior Stefanos Lekkas returns to his throne between the pipes for the Catamounts. Lekkas is a unique goalie to watch, as he has the ability to make difficult saves look easy, as well as make easy saves look difficult. Multiple times I can remember saying “how did he stop that” when the Huskies have gone up against him; he is very agile and moves around well in the crease, which helps make up for his lackluster size (listed at a generous six feet tall). Lekkas to his credit has a .935 save percentage so far this season, and has only allowed 18 goals in 8 games, so he has performed well to start the year.

Offensively, Vermont is led by four players with 4 points; seniors Liam Coughlin and Craig Puffer (1-3-4 each), junior defenseman Jake Massie (1-3-4), and freshman Joey Cipollone (3-1-4). Cipollone and sophomore Alex Esposito lead the team in goals with 3 each. Freshman defenseman Carter Long actually leads the team in shot attempts with 29, and defenseman Matt O’Donnell has 27 himself. The top generating forward is Matt Alvaro, with 26 attempts (21 on net, team leader). In total, 17 different Catamounts have recorded a point this season, and 12 have scored a goal; a scoring-by-committee approach not dissimilar to what Northeastern has done this year. They may not have a go-to scorer like they did in Ross Colton the last two seasons but they have the ability to put the puck in the net.

From a team-play perspective, Vermont is one of the worst teams in the conference and nation when looking at their Corsi percentage. At 46.0%, they are getting outplayed and out-possessed overall, which is reflected in their -68 shot attempts differential (per College Hockey News) and -57 shots on goal differential (Per USCHO). Their statistics are similarly unimpressed at even strength and on the powerplay, but they seem to play their best when the score is tied or within a goal (Corsi% 48.7%). Getting a lead early could be key for the Huskies to put away Vermont.

And while we have lamented some of Northeastern’s powerplay struggles this year, Vermont has done even worse. clicking on only 10.7% of their powerplays, a mark good enough for 5th-worst in the nation. Their penalty kill is similar in success to Northeastern’s (81.5% for Vermont, 81.1% for NU).

This is a game that Northeastern could and should win, particularly if they play up to the level they showed they are capable against St. Cloud State, and if they continue the gritty, never-say-die attitude they showed against UConn and Lowell. If the Huskies’ penalty woes from last weekend persist, it could be a challenging weekend no matter how poor UVM’s powerplay has been.

Predictions (1 point for right outcome, +1 for right score, 0 points for wrong outcome)

  1. Gordon (6 points)- Huskies win 4-1
  2. Fallon (5 points)- Huskies win 4-0
  3. Downie (5 points)-“I dunno 23-1 Huskies”
  4. Davis (4 points)- Huskies win 4-2

Featured image via UVMAthletics.com and photographer John Quackenbos