The Takeaway: Inconsistent special teams doom Vermont

Posted by: Michael King

BOSTON — Despite displaying one of its better all-around performances of the season, Vermont fell, 4-3, to Boston University at Agganis Arena Friday night. The team fell to 1-6-1 on the season and continues its position at the bottom of Hockey East. The Catamounts were outplayed by BU during the first half of the game, despite taking a 1-0 lead early in the first period. Vermont found itself in a 4-2 deficit before a power-play goal late in the third period brought the team within one goal. However, the Catamounts failed to tie the score despite multiple scoring chances in the final 90 seconds with an extra attacker.

What I Saw

  • Vermont saw its early lead disappear on two plays that involved unfortunate bounces; both of which created shots that goaltender Rob Madore had little chance to save. BU forward Corey Trivino scored the first, after he collected a deflection off a Vermont defenseman at the top of the crease and easily put his shot past Madore five-hole. The second involved a carom off the boards behind the net that fell on the stick of Charlie Coyle in the slot. The sophomore forward launched a wrist shot to the top of the net that, again, afforded Madore little reaction time.
  • The Catamounts’ failure to build on their lead helped BU secure the momentum going forward. Furthermore, Vermont kept taking penalties and gave BU five different power plays, two of which they converted. The continual return to the penalty kill stifled Vermont’s attempts to rally later in the game.
  • Once Vermont cut the lead to 4-3 on a power play goal, the team dominated play for the final three minutes. With about 20 seconds left, BU obtained possession of the puck and launched it down ice from its own blue line, just missing the empty Vermont net. Only, neither of the linesmen signaled for icing as the Catamounts frantically attempted to collect the puck. Instead of receiving an offensive zone face-off with an extra man attacker and the game on the line, the game ended.

What I Thought

  • With better special teams play, Vermont easily could have left Agganis Arena with at least one point. The Catamounts continue to have one of the worst penalty kills in Hockey East, killing about 65 percent. Given such a low percentage, one would think that the team would show discipline and be careful not to take penalties. This is where the inexperience of the team is a significant factor. Starting 11 freshmen and sophomores on a regular basis certainly doesn’t help anything. A team cannot expect to take five or more penalties against a team with an excellent power play like BU and expect to win hockey games.
  • I was also surprised by Vermont’s lack of cohesiveness and many mistakes on defense. But with three freshmen on defense, such growing pains are to be expected. However, Vermont’s defensive-based style lends itself to physical, low-scoring games where quality scoring chances are generally at a premium. But not tonight. For example, the first BU goal involved an attempt to clear the puck up the center of the ice (typically a bad idea), which eventually took a bad bounce and found the net (typically the result).
  • I also thought goalie Rob Madore played well. His young defensive group makes it a daily challenge to win games, but none of the four goals allowed would be fair to assign blame to the goalie. I’m not sure if he’s a goalie who’s athletic enough where he can steal games, but he is definitely a goalie who thrives with a dependable defense (as evidence by how he lead the team to the Frozen Four as a freshman in 2008-09). However, Vermont did show a lot of character nearly overcoming the 4-2 deficit. It remains to be seen if the team can take positives from games like this and build on that going forward. It’s not easy fighting back once you get down by two goals on the road against a good team, but the Catamounts showed that zeal. They now just need to convert that effort into victories.

What They Said

“I though it was an icing call,” Sneddon said after the game in his assessment of the final 20 seconds. “But referees make a mistake and they said it was a mistake. [Linesman Bob Bernard] owned up to it right away, but I continued to press the situation since I was pretty hot under the collar. But I think when a referee is honest about it, I can swallow it. He saw one thing and admitted he made a mistake; he’s human. I’m glad he didn’t run from it, just like we talk about accountability with our team.”

Sneddon chose his words carefully and did not blame the officials for the loss. However, he spent much of the game communicating his displeasure with non-calls from the bench. At several points during the second period, the coach leaned over the edge of the bench in attempts to communicate with the referrees during play. Though the icing non-call during the last 20 seconds prevented his team from having one final opportunity to score with an extra attacker, it was certainly not the story of the game — as the coach noted.

What Else You Should Know

Senior defenseman Lance Herrington suffered an injury during warmups which forced freshman Blake Doerring into action. With a largely inexperienced defensive corps (three freshman, one sophomore), entering Doerring into the game on short notice only compounded the problem. It’s unclear if Herrington will be available for tomorrow’s game at Northeastern.

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