University of Vermont season preview

By DJ Powers

The University of Vermont Catamounts will open their inaugural season as a member of Hockey East on October 14th when they travel to Alaska-Anchorage’s Sullivan Arena to face off against Michigan Tech in the Nye Frontier Classic Tournament. This will be the Catamounts first ever trip to Alaska.

Vermont became one of the best stories to emerge out of the ECACHL last season. After finishing 11th in the conference in 2003-04, the Catamounts turned things around and finished in fourth place last season. They just missed getting a bid to the NCAA Tournament as well. This season, the Catamounts hope to continue their rise in the fiercely competitive Hockey East conference.

The biggest reason behind UVM’s success last season can be attributed to the phenomenal play of goaltender Joe Fallon (CHI). The Bemidji, MN native rewrote the Catamounts goaltending record books last season, setting school records in single season shutouts (5) and goals against average (1.96). He earned numerous accolades that included the ECACHL’s Rookie of the Year honor. He finished his freshman season with a 17-10-4 record. His 1.96 goals against average ranked eighth in the nation, while his .921 save percentage ranked 14th. Fallon returns this season to backstop a very formidable Catamounts team that will look to firmly establish themselves in their new conference. Battling for backup duty behind Fallon are senior Travis Russell and sophomore Jeff Hill. Russell saw action in just eight games, going 4-4-0 that included one shutout. Hill saw action in just one game.

While goaltending will be perhaps UVM’s greatest strength coming into this season, the Catamounts defense will also be very strong. They return the nation’s sixth ranked defense from last season nearly intact. The lone non-returning blueliner is Derek Wagar, who has graduated. Outstanding senior Jamie Sifersand junior Kenny Macaulay return to lead the superb Catamounts defense. Sifers, who will serve as team captain this season, finished second among the Catamounts defensemen in scoring with 16 points (4 goals, 12 assists). Macaulay, who will serve as one of the team’s assistant captains, led all UVM defensemen in scoring with 21 points (4 goals, 17 assists). Both players bring dependability and strong leadership to the UVM blue line.

In addition to the many returning players, the Catamounts bring in two new additions to their defensive corps in Tim Geverd and Kyle Kuk. Geverd is a hard-nosed, defensive defenseman who comes to UVM from the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs (EJHL). He posted seven points (one goal, six assists) and 60 penalty minutes in 35 appearances. Kuk (pronounced ‘cook’) is a fluid skating offensive defenseman who comes to UVM from Tri-City (USHL). He finished eighth among all USHL defensemen in scoring last season with 25 points (7 goals, 18 assists).

The Catamounts suffered their most significant losses upfront. UVM lost top scorer Scott Mifsud, along with Chris Smart and Tim Plant to graduation. The good news coming into this season is the return of outstanding senior Brady Leisenring. Leisenring played in just six games before a groin injury abruptly ended his season. Leisenring’s return will help the Catamounts to improve their offensive production this season. UVM finished last season with the nation’s 34th ranked offense that average just over 2.75 goals per game.

One player who really step it up when Leisenring’s season ended was sophomore sensation Torrey Mitchell (SJ). Mitchell exploded onto the UVM landscape with a stellar freshman campaign that culminated in a selection to the ECACHL All-Rookie team. He led all Catamounts rookies with 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 38 appearances. Mitchell also finished 17th in the nation among rookies in points per game (0.79). This season, Mitchell will be one of several players that UVM will look to help lead the offense.

Among the other players being counted on to help out are senior Jeff Corey and junior Chris Myers. Corey, along with Mifsud and Mitchell, combined to make up one of the ECACHL’s most exciting line combinations last season. Corey finished second on the team in scoring with 33 points (17 goals, 16 assists). Myers enjoyed a stellar sophomore season last year where he saw much of his success on special teams, specifically power play. He finished fifth on the team in scoring with 20 points (12 goals, 8 assists). Of his 12 goals, half came on the power play.

Two players who return considerable size to the Catamounts this season are the 6’7 Art Femenella(TB) and the 6’5 Matt Syroczynski. The two towering forwards were often paired with Chris Smart on the Catamounts checking line last season. Femenella, who saw playing time both at forward and on defense last season did not register a single point, despite playing in 21 games. UVM is hoping to see not only some offensive production from Femenella but also some consistency in his overall game as well. Syroczynski fared much better, playing in 33 games and registering ten points (seven goals, three assists).

The Catamounts will welcome four newcomers to their forward lines in Mike Atkinson, Corey Carlson, Peter Lenes and Dean Strong. While none of the incoming freshmen have great size (all are under 6’0), they all bring considerable offensive abilities to the team. Atkinson, an ultra-competitive centerman with skill, comes to UVM from the Salisbury School (NEPSIHA) where he finished second on the team in scoring with 45 points (21 goals, 24 assists).

Carlson, a very good two-way forward, comes to UVM from Omaha (USHL), where he finished fifth in the league with 66 points (25 goals, 41 assists). He also finished tied for second in the league with 12 power play goals. The speedy Lenes comes to UVM from Sioux City (USHL), where he finished the season with 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists). The offensively gifted Strong comes to UVM from Vernon (BCHL), where he amassed 102 points (41 goals, 61 assists) in 70 appearances.

(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 3)

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