Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hockey East Preseason Power Rankings: No. 6 Vermont

By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff

6) University of Vermont
2009-10 record: 17-15-7 (9-11-7 HE)
Finish in HE: 8th (lost in tournament semifinals)
Key returners: Sr. F Jack Downing (9-12-21), So. F Sebastian Stalberg (6-13-19), Sr. F Wahsontiio Stacey (9-9-18), Sr. D Kyle Medvec (5-10-15), Jr. D Drew MacKenzie (4-10-14), Jr. G Rob Madore (2.66, .908)
Key losses: F Brayden Irwin (15-19-34), F Colin Vock (11-17-28), F Brian Roloff (9-18-27), D Patrick Cullity (2-9-11)
Notable freshmen: F Connor Brickley, F H.T. Lenz, F Brooks Herrington
Coach: Kevin Sneddon

How they finished
The Catamounts went just 5-6-5 from mid-January until the end of the regular season, but that was good enough to edge out Northeastern for the final playoff spot. They went on to upset top-seeded New Hampshire in the quarterfinals before being shut out by BC in the semifinals. They were one of three Hockey East teams to make the NCAA Tournament -- thanks in large part to a 6-1-0 record out of conference -- but they lost to eventual national runner-up Wisconsin in the first round.

This is definitely the biggest question mark for the Catamounts. They ranked just eighth in scoring last year and they lose their top three scorers (top four if you include Justin Milo, who was dismissed from the team last February). They only return one 20-point scorer (Jack Downing) and no 10-goal scorers. Fortunately for the Catamounts, they bring in some promising rookie forwards, headlined by second-round NHL draft pick Connor Brickley. If the freshmen contribute from the start and the returning letter-winners increase their production, Vermont should contend for home ice.

Defense and goaltending
Standing in stark contrast to the offense, there are virtually no questions on the back end. Vermont loses Patrick Cullity, who led the team in plus/minus, but it returns its other five starting defensemen as well as goalie Rob Madore, who could compete for a spot on one of the All-Hockey East teams. The Catamounts ranked third in team defense last year and, given Kevin Sneddon’s defense-first style, there’s no reason to think they won’t be just as good, if not better, this year.

Scott's poll
1) Sept. 28
2) Sept. 27
3) Sept. 24
4) Sept. 23
5) Sept. 22
6) Vermont
7) Northeastern
8) Providence
9) Massachusetts-Lowell
10) Massachusetts

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