Heading into last weekend’s series against Northeastern, Vermont’s struggles offensively could be linked to a number of things. The most notable, though, was the Cats power play. It hadn’t scored yet with the man advantage in 2011 and entered the series scoring at a 12 percent clip, ranked 53rd of 58 teams in the country.
Thus, head coach Kevin Sneddon took a drastic approach and literally blew up everything the team had done to date on the power play. Last week in preparation for the NU series, Sneddon held what he called open tryouts for a chance to play on the power play. What resulted was eye opening.
“We really blew it up. It was almost like tryouts,” said Sneddon. “We tried to see which guys could handle certain situations. It wasn’t until the end of the week that we put it all together and let it work as a five-man unit. It was trying to find a chemistry of five guys trying to work well together.”
That chemistry resulted in a rare mix of players playing on the Cats top power play unit. While it’s common to see a forward playing the point on many power play units, it’s not common to see a defenseman playing the wing. That was the case for the Catamounts, who placed blueliner Drew MacKenzie at the right wing. At the same time, freshman forward Matt White played on the point, providing a unique switch.
“We’re trying anything, you know. What do you have to lose at this point?” laughed Sneddon. “[The power play] wasn’t working at all and we showed the guys we wanted to try to fix it.”
The result on Friday night was a power play goal, the team’s first since December 18 against St. Lawrence. And the goal couldn’t have come at a better time. Vermont led, 2-0, before Northeastern got within a single goal scoring on the power play with 13:25 remaining. But the Cats got their own power play chance and cashed in when Sebastian Stalberg fired a shot through a Connor Brickley screen to put Vermont ahead, 3-1. That ended up as the final score as the Catamounts earned just their second Hockey East win of the season.
“[The goal came on] the set we had worked on all week, so it’s nice to see our efforts pay off,” said Sneddon. “That goal was an answer back. They make it 2-1 and instead of dropping the shoulders and worrying, they take a penalty and we answer to make it 3-1.”