The UVM Women’s team is shaping up nicely just a few weeks prior to Opening Night. One of their strongest positions heading into this season is undoubtedly their defensive core. Last season, UVM gave up 858 shots to opponents, which was the second lowest in Hockey East.
You could start with Sini Karjalainen, who’s the assistant captain, or Maude Poulin-Labelle, who broke a single-season record for points by a defensemen last season and tied a single-season record for goals by a defensemen with 12. But no, we are going to start with the youngest defender of the group in Bella Parento.
Bella Parento (Freshmen)
From the Three Players To Watch Article, Bella Parento joins the Catamounts hockey program after spending last season at Kimball Union Academy. She did so in Plainfield, New Hampshire, where she spent two seasons appointed as team captain. As well, the UVM freshman also spent time playing with the Boston Eagles 19U team.
“She’s gonna be a great story, she was a late bloomer, even though she was a star in public high school hockey in Vermont, and the quality of hockey she was playing wasn’t going that high, and wasn’t going to position her to be a college player,” said head coach Jim Plumer. He would go on to mention that her time at KUA under Mark Kudak would help her to grow.
Despite entering her first year of college, Parento, 19-years-old, has already experienced a high level of play. The native of Montpelier, VT has played in two national finals with the Vermont Shamrocks midget team. Parento should have no problem getting adjusted, as she’s joining a very solid blue line in Burlington.
She’s currently the only defensemen for UVM’s class of 2024 and the only Vermont-born player on the hockey team’s roster for 2020-21. Parento earned All-State First Team honours, as she put up 27 goals along with 13 assists with U32 in her hometown.
Sophomores Cam Morrissey and Sara Levesque (Sophmores)
The Catamounts have two Sophomore defensemen in Cam Morrissey and Sara Levesque. Morrissey is entering her Sophomore season at UVM and had a quiet Freshman season, skating in only 15 games in her NCAA debut year. In those 15 games, she didn’t do all that much, as the native of Michigan recorded only two shots.
Currently 19-years-old, the American defensemen plays a very solid game. She’s got solid speed when racing for the puck and has a knack for being able to keep the puck in her own zone. Once again, the stat sheet doesn’t show how valuable a player like Morrissey is.
Levesque is a different story, as she’s skated in 36 games for the Catamounts and registered 12 points, as all of those were helpers. When you look at the 5’3 defensemen, there is one thing that you’ll notice and that is that she loves to hang out right above the hash marks to load up for a shot or unleash a one-timer. When the shot isn’t open, she has no problem looking around for the open pass.
Before committing to UVM, Levesque spent three years at John Abbot College, where she was the assistant captain for all three seasons. During the tenure she spent there, Levesque picked up 11 goals along with 23 assists which made for 34 points. She did so in 69 games.
Sini Karjalainen (Junior)
From the Three Players To Watch Article, when you look at the UVM core on the blue line, one could say it’s absolutely stacked, and this year, it’s led by junior Sini Karjalainen. The Finnish defensemen, headed into her third season, has already etched her name into the UVM record books. Her 19 assists last year were a single-season high for defensemen and second overall for the Catamounts hockey program.
The 24 points she collected last season has her third overall among UVM defensemen. Defensively, she led the team with 34 blocked shots in 2019-20. She was a huge part of both special teams units last season and I don’t expect that to change heading into this season. Standing at five-foot-eight, she’s also shown she can play on either side of the blue line.
“She’s so solid, she’s not your classic offensive defensemen like Poulin-Labelle is, but she’s an unbelievable defender being able to play against Elisa Mueller, Teresa Vansova elite international players that she can really defend them, but she’s also smart offensively and she’s not flashy like Poulin-Labelle is, but she can quarterback the powerplay,” said Plumer.
Maude Poulin-Labelle and Ellice Murphy (Junior)
Before committing to UVM, Poulin-Labelle had already made a name for herself, as he spent three years at Stanstead College in Quebec. There, she would go on to win three straight NAPHA Championships and was the team MVP in 2018. She’s not a defensemen who’s going to stay up at the point. She also likes to drive to the net, which makes the junior so dangerous offensively.
Now, there’s a reason I didn’t put Maude Poulin-Labelle in my three players to watch the article and that’s because everyone is already watching the UVM blueliner from Sherbrooke, Quebec. Last season was a breakout season for Poulin-Labelle, who racked up 12 goals along with 17 assists which made for a total of 29 points last season. She did so in 36 games. As well, Poulin-Labelle was one of only four defensemen in the country with a hat trick last season. She was also nominated for the Patty Kazmaier Award for the top female player in Division I hockey.
Ellice Murphy is a Junior blueliner who’s probably not gonna get many looks due to the fact that Poulin-Labelle and Karjalien are also Juniors and have produced at a higher rate. But over the past two years, Murphy has played in 69 games and her numbers have only progressed with each season. In those 69 games, Murphy’s put up seven assists and she’s not afraid to carry the puck up the ice and is only going to get stronger and become a bigger piece on the UVM blueline.
The Roseau, Minnesota native may get overshadowed by some of the stronger players, but she’s definitely got my attention and should start getting yours when the season begins.
Anna Erickson (Senior)
Anna Erikson is from Stillwater, MN and is the lone senior on the UVM roster heading into the 2020-21 season. During her first three seasons, Erikson’s skated in 105 games, racking up one goal and 12 assists for 13 points. Like most defensemen, she’s continued to find a way to keep herself in the formation throughout the four years. Before committing to UVM, Anna racked up nine goals in her only season with the Madison Capitals. However, that success with the 19U team didn’t transfer over to her play at UVM.
The 5’4 defensemen spent 2019-20 paired with Sini Karjalien, which is good for her seeing that she doesn’t have to be relied on offensively. She plays a solid game in the opponent’s zone, but gets beat a lot on races to the puck, which is something she needs to work harder on. If Erickson can keep it simple, she won’t have an issue in the upcoming season.