Vermont's Struggling Offense Looking For Bright Spots
by Marisa Ingemi/CHN Reporter
Vermont needed something to bounce its way.
On Saturday, an overtime victory over Dartmouth came at just the right time. Trailing 1-0, the Catamounts stole victory behind the effort of its freshmen.
The young Catamounts are relying heavily on that young roster, behind sophomore goalie Stefanos Lekkas and freshman scorer Max Kaufman.
"I like the way we played in the third period in terms of being tied and playing for the win," head coach Kevin Sneddon said. "We carried the momentum into overtime. We always say 'play to win' in overtime and we certainly did."
The last four goals from the Catamounts have been scored by freshmen, with Kauffman picking up the latest. The first line center had a strong night overall, peppering Dartmouth’s sophomore goalie Adrian Clark throughout the third period.
Kaufman’s goal came on a stellar pass from junior Craig Puffer, who played his best game of the season to date. Clark, who was playing due to injury to Dartmouth’s usual starter Devin Buffalo, stopped several chances in the third to force overtime at all.
Alex Esposito had a snipe of his own on Saturday for a goal in his third straight game. The second line right winger has found success for a Catamounts team that has struggled to score at times this season.
Ross Colton has also been a tear for the Cats’, with the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect leading the way with eight goals. He’s seen time on the fourth line along with the power play, and the sophomore has responded as one of the biggest threats on the roster.
On the blueline, Matt O’Donnell, another sophomore, has quarterbacked a strong power play. Vermont’s man advantage has been a strength this season with a 17.9 percent, but with the 56th best scoring offense overall, goals have been hard to come by.
Of Colton’s eight goals, five have been with the extra skater. Ten of their 31 goals overall this season have been on the power play, with a third of the overall offense coming from their special teams.
Both goals on Saturday night were even strength, possibly a sign of the 5-on-5 offense finally coming together for the young unit.
It’s really been the defense and goaltending that has kept the Catamounts in games while the offense has struggled to find itself. Led by Lekkas, the Catamounts defense is giving up three goals per game. While that number is a bit higher than they want, it’s good enough for a young unit also working out the early season.
The penalty kill especially has been a bright spot, with the eighth best unit in the nation at 87.9 percent. The team’s combined special teams percentage of 53.5 is 14th in the nation — not bad for a team with the fourth-lowest scoring total overall.
One big key for the Cats is getting shots on goal. Vermont struggled in the opening period on Saturday, but ended up outshooting the Big Green. A few days before against Connecticut, they started slowly but again ended up outshooting the Huskies. It’s been a struggle to jump out to quicker starts, and because of that, the Catamounts have fell behind early in games,
On Saturday, they showed the ability to come back behind a strong penalty kill holding Dartmouth off the board. But overall, getting more shots off early could result in the offense finding a groove.
The Catamounts are still finding themselves, but the early production from young players is certainly a positive worth looking at, especially in a down year for Hockey East.