So, yes, this is UVM’s final season as a member of the only Division I conference it has ever known.
Not that the Catamounts are giving it much thought.
“We’re really not concerned,” said head coach Kevin Sneddon, “about this being our last year. We are trying to make big strides with our program regardless of where we play.”
In Sneddon’s inaugural season behind the Catamount bench, his team went 0-11-2 out of the gate. It wasn’t much better in January either (2-6-0), but Vermont won five of six to close out the season on a high note before a battered and bruised squad bowed out in the first round of the playoffs.
“We endured a very testing season,” said Sneddon, “both from a win-loss perspective, as well as some serious injuries. I firmly believe that those experiences have made us all stronger.”
A young team, if UVM makes any noise this season, it will come as a surprise to Sneddon’s colleagues who picked the Cats 10th in the preseason coaches poll.
“We are not upset by the league voting us low in the preseason poll,” said the former Union bench boss. “We haven’t earned respect, but yet we have a great opportunity to earn some this year.
“The team has done a fantastic job of committing to their strength and conditioning and the energy of our returnees, combined with our newcomers, has provided a lot of excitement for our team. It was important for us to come together as a team toward the end of the season and at least taste success. By no means were we close to satisfied, but we needed to feel winning.
“Now we want it more often.”
The learning experience was not limited to his players, though. Sneddon admits that he took some things away from last season as well.
“I was reminded of all the different emotions that go into coaching a team,” he explained. “The biggest thing I learned was to be patient with the process and, at the same time, never stray from the course.”
And the first step in that process is steady improvement this season.
“Brady Leisenring will be the key on offense,” said the coach about the team’s second-leading scorer in 2003-04. “We need Scott Mifsud to take another big step for us this year and others like Jeff Corey, Chris Myers, Tim Plant and Tom Collingham really need to contribute some offense for us.
“Jaime Sifers is the glue to this team, so he will be counted on for leadership on and off the ice. The bottom line is that we have great competition at each position.
“Our key recruits are Torrey Mitchell, Joe Fallon, Kenny Macaulay and Slavomir Tomko, but we are excited about each and every one of them. We feel that the nine new faces will really help our depth and skill level this year. We expect them to quickly learn from us, as well as their teammates so that they can be placed in some key situations early in their careers.”