Last year, Vermont had the prototypical half-empty, half-full season. The Catamounts finished in eighth place, but then upset New Hampshire to advance to the Garden and, thanks to strong non-conference performances, returned to the NCAA tournament.
This year, strong defense and goaltending will be counted on to carry the team.
Goaltender Rob Madore went through some ups and downs last year, but finished with back-to-back shutouts over UNH to carry the Catamounts to the Garden.
“I really feel good about where Rob is at now, both mentally and physically,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon says. “Coming off the Frozen Four, he never took time to smell the roses about what he accomplished. I had to kick him out of the weight room on the Monday after the Frozen Four.
“He tried to change a lot in his game instead of just reflecting on how well he did. As a result, there were some inconsistencies [until] he responded in the playoffs.
“When Rob is on his game, he’s as good as anybody in the country.”
In front of him, the Catamounts return all but Patrick Cullity from a rock-solid defensive corps.
“I look to Kevan Miller as the leader,” Sneddon says. “Dan Lawson does a nice job with that as well. Those guys made the decision to come back to the school despite having offers to go to the NHL.
“Kyle Medvec is an absolute beast. He’s 6-[foot]-6, 232 [pounds], and 6 percent body fat. He’s done so much to improve himself in the offseason. Those three guys are going to be the cornerstone back there.
“Anders Franzon was a great surprise for us last year as a freshman, and Nick Bruneteau and Arthur Griem are two freshmen trying to fill Patrick’s void. Nick is as skilled of a defenseman as we have. He’s 5-10, 180, but he’s very talented. He can help out on our power play.”
Up front is where the primary questions lie. Five freshmen will need to replace six departed forwards, including the top three and four of the top five scorers.
“We need to have big seasons out of our seniors,” Sneddon says. “Jack Downing and Wah Stacey in particular need have to have big years for us offensively.
“We need guys like Matt Marshall, who has shown bright spots in his first two years, to start contributing some offense. He has tremendous speed and good skills.
“From our sophomore class I look at Sebastian Stalberg. I’m really excited about what he did in the offseason to get stronger and more prepared for this year. He was an all-rookie team member last year and he’s poised to have a great season for us. Chris McCarthy is another [important] forward.
“Out of the freshman class, Connor Brickley, Matt White, and H.T. Lenz have shown us some really good things in our abbreviated practices that we’ve had. They’ll have good years for us.”