Saturday, November 26, 2016

Scouting the enemy: Vermont Catamounts

The No. 3/4 Quinnipiac Bobcats face off against the No. 20/21 Vermont Catamounts for the Belpot in the championship game of the Friendship Four tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireleand. The Bobcats advanced to the title game with a shoot-out win over ECAC rival Saint Lawrence while Vermont defeated UMass Amherst 4-2 to move to advance. The Catamounts have gotten off to a good start this season under head coach Kevin Sneddon who is entering his 14th season with Vermont. The team is currently 8-3-2 and in second place in Hockey East with nine points behind first place Boston College. Sneddon has had some solid success with Vermont taking the program to three NCAA tournament appearances and a Frozen Four berth in the 2008-2009 season. This is only the second meeting all time for Quinnipiac against Vermont, the last coming in a 4-1 win over the Catamounts on December 30, 2007 in the Sheraton/Catamount Cup in Burlington, Vermont.

Ross Colton (photo by Brian Jenkins/Free Press)
Offensively this is a team that can put the puck in the net due in part to the 3.38 goals per game they are averaging this season. They are getting balanced scoring from multiple players up and down their roster. They have two leading scorers both with nine points in sophomore Craig Puffer (6 goals and 3 assists) and freshman Ross Colton (4 goals and 5 assists) with the latter being a 2016 4th round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning. They feature another three players with eight points in senior Mario Puskarich (4 goals and 4 assists), junior Rob Darrar (5 goals and 3 assists) and senior blue liner Rob Hamilton (3 goals and 5 assists). They are getting some nice production from a pair of freshman forwards in Derek Lodermeier (3 goals and 4 assists) and Matt Alvaro (4 goals and 2 assists). They have two draft picks up front with sophomore Liam Coughlin a 2014 5th round pick by the Edmonton Oilers and Colton. They are a middle of the pack team on the power play converting at 17.28% (14-of-81) so the Quinnipiac penalty kill should be able to make it tough on them to score as they are killing chances at 90.1% clip good for 7th in the nation. The Catamounts don't bring a ton of size up front but make up for it with good team speed. Quinnipiac has the team speed on defense to match up with the Catamounts speedy forwards but you do wonder how much they have in the tank after a face paced physical battle yesterday against Saint Lawrence took its toll.

Defensively, Vermont is a very good team at 2.23 goals per game which is good for 8th in the nation one spot behind Quinnipiac. Sneddon has played all nine of his defensemen on his roster this season for multiple games with seniors Rob Hamilton and Ori Abramson playing in a all 13 games along with freshman Matt O'Donnell. The lone draft pick on defense is freshman Jake Massie a 2015 6th pick of the Carolina Hurricanes. Sophomore Mike Lee is a Hamden, CT native but has only played in three games this season. The blue line has produced 25 points of offense for the Catamounts so they have ability to contribute if necessary. They are a team that has the ability to block shots in games as they have averaged 11.2 block shots per game. Vermont has a very good penalty kill as well as they have killed off opponents power plays at an 88.2% clip (67-of-76). They are not the biggest team on defense but they have good team speed, make good decisions and don't make a lot of mistakes. Offensively the Bobcats will need to outwork the Catamounts when they are in Vermont's zone in order to create quality scoring opportunities.

Stefanos Lekkas (photo by Brendan Sullivan/The World Herald)
Freshman goaltender Stefanos Lekkas has been really good for Vermont this season. In 10 games he has a 7-1-2 record with a 1.79 goals against average and a .935 save percentage. He has one shutout on the season as well. Lekkas is not a big goaltender checking in a 5'9 and 170 pounds but has good quickness and athleticism to make up for his lack of size in net. Quinnipiac will need to put traffic in front of him so he will have trouble seeing the puck and to try to get some greasy goals.

This should be a good match up of two quality teams for the Belpot title. This is the game you wanted Quinnipiac to play as Vermont is the 12th rated team in the pairwise as opposed to UMass which is 47th. A win over the Catamounts will help Quinnipiac's pairwise much more than a win over UMass would have.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathan_singer.

No comments:

Post a Comment