The stage is set for the Hockey East Quarterfinals, as No. 4 University of Vermont Catamounts will host No. 5 Maine Black Bears on Sunday, February 28th at 2:00pmET. Maine finished the regular season with a record of 7-8-1, while on the other hand, UVM closed the regular season with a 6-4 record. When asked about the positives and negatives of playing a team like Maine who’s gotten in more games this year, coach Jim Plumer said there are advantages and disadvantages, adding, “I would have preferred to play more games if I had to choose.”
These two teams have had very similar seasons, so let’s breakdown who might have the advantage heading into Sunday’s contest. ”We’re hungry because we haven’t played as many games as them, and we’ve played the fewest games in Hockey East,” said team captain Kristina Shannahan.
Once again, we have another solid goalie matchup on tap, as it will likely be Senior Loryn Porter, as she takes on Freshmen Jessie McPherson.
McPherson is coming off a weekend where she was in net for back-to-back losses to Aerin Frankel and the Northeastern Huskies. In the weekend series, McPherson kept the Catamounts in the game, but Vermont’s defence had some lapses at times, which led to the weekend loss. For UVM fans, however, there is no need to worry.
Northeastern is one of the best teams all-around in the country and it was easily the toughest test for both McPherson and the Catamounts all season. I expect UVM and McPherson to come out strong, avenging a three-game skid.
The Maine Black Bears have four goaltenders on their roster, however, Porter was the only goaltender who saw time between the pipes this past season. In 16 games, Porter amassed a 7-8-1 record with a 1.56 GAA a single shutout and a .953 save percentage. However, Porter has had Hockey East Playoff experience, which might give her a very slight edge.
The offence for Maine and UVM are very similar, and between the two teams, there is only one player that has at least 10 points, which is Maine’s Ida Kuoppala. Kuoppala has amassed 11 points, having scored eight goals along with three assists. The forward has amassed these totals, playing in 14 of Maine’s 16 games this season.
Only four other Black Bears have three goals or more on the season. UVM has gotten production from all four lines this season, which is why no one has been able to reach the double-digit point plateau. Theresa Schafzahl has been the best player on the ice for Vermont since they returned from their month-long quarantine break.
Corinne McCool had a solid weekend, as she managed to pick up a goal in the opening game of the doubleheader against Northeastern last weekend. To round out the group, Natalie Mlynkova should be a player to watch, as she’s played great all season and has gotten a ton of praise from head coach Jim Plumer. She’s bound to break out in the future.
I’m giving the slight edge here to UVM. They have proven that they can get scoring from all around and they can easily roll four lines, thus you can expect the same amount of production. Head coach Jim Plumer said to expect line changes for this weekend’s game, however, the Holmes-Shannahan-Schafzahl line is expected to stay the same.
UVM’s defence has been somewhat quiet on the scoresheet this season. Sini Kajalian has been held scoreless in 10 games after putting up 24 points in 35 games in 2019-20. Maude-Poulin Labelle has only scored one goal after racking up 12 in her Sophomore season. However, they have made a huge impact on the defensive side of the puck, blocking shots and making the smart plays, which have led to UVM’s success this season.
The Catamounts led the league, allowing opponents to only 240 shots throughout their 10 games during the regular season. To put that in perspective, Maine has allowed 538 shots despite having played in six more games.
The Black Bears have one player on defence who’s going to be a huge factor in Sunday’s game. That player is Senior Taylor Leech. This season, Leech has 47 blocked shots, which is over twice that amount of any other player on the Black Bears roster.
One thing that will catch your eye when looking at Maine is that they’ve had nine different defenders play this season and seven of those nine have played in at least 10 games. I know that teams aren’t gonna want to switch things up for the playoffs, so it should be interesting to see what core they throw out there at the Gutterson Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoon.