Vermont hasn't breached a .500 record since the program went 9-6 in 2006, one season prior to Ryan Curtis' arrival in Burlington. From the team's 2007 campaign through last spring, the program is 33-83 with a 8-32 mark in America East play. The Catamounts have not sipped from the Chalice of Infinite Victory all that much in the last eight years, but the program experienced its second-best winning percentage since 2007 in the 2014 season (Vermont, however, played a schedule last spring -- according to LaxPower -- that ranked as the weakest the Catamounts have faced in the last eight years).
This is an important year in Northern New England, a season that will help shape the volition of the program going forward. The America East is not losing any steam, and the Catamounts need to find an enhanced sense of purpose in 2015 to ensure sustainability in an environment ripe with strong predators.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
Fight the "Kaboom!"
February 7: at Penn State; February 14: Colgate; March 7: v. Air Force; April 4: Albany
Each of these teams finished in the top half of LaxPower's ratings last spring. Against similar competition a year ago -- the Catamounts faced only two teams (Colgate and Albany) that fit in that category -- Vermont was 0-2 with an aggregate goal differential of -21 with an average margin of defeat of over 10 goals. Facing four opponents of that ilk in 2015 is going to provide the Catamounts with opportunities and difficulties, dates that won't necessarily define the team's season but will help focus Vermont's station in the national hierarchy.
Avoiding ugly defeats in these games is a concern for Vermont, but the ultimate purpose of these games is to see the Catamounts' ability to compete against strong opposition. Loading two of these games into February may provide Vermont with a chance to catch either Penn State or Colgate shivering in early season maturation, but the fact still remains that the Catamounts have some challenges -- volume-wise -- on their slate in 2015 that didn't exist in 2014.
Change the Melody
March 21: at Massachusetts-Lowell; March 28: Stony Brook; April 4: Albany; April 11: at UMBC; April 18: Hartford; April 25: at Binghamton
Averaging a 1-4 record in America East play since 2007 is . . . well, it's like having a casserole made of the rotting remains of a two-week old racoon left out in the hot summer sun. It's not like the Catamounts have a history of thumping skulls in the America East -- the team is a combined 23-69 in America East play from 1997 through 2014 with an average league finish of 1-4 -- but the conference also isn't stacked with unimpeachable concerns. Just one time in 18 season of America East competition -- in 1997, the program's first effort in the conference -- have the Catamounts finished its league push with at least a .500 record (the team has never finished with greater than a .500 record in America East competition).
The Catamounts have, at least conceptually, an opportunity to reverse some of their league fortunes in 2015. Opening with the River Hawks -- a first-year program -- could platform Vermont well for back-to-back home dates against the Seawolves and Great Danes in early April. How Vermont starts the America East portion of its schedule -- virtually the entire closing portion to the team's 2015 slate are conference affairs -- is going to heavily determine if the Catamounts can shake its uneven history in America East play.
I Need to Feel Your Touch
February 28: Boston University; March 3: at New Jersey Institute of Technology; March 14: at Sacred Heart; March 21: at Massachusetts-Lowell; March 24: at Dartmouth
These are either first-year programs expected to exhibit growing pains or teams that finished below Vermont in last season's final LaxPower ratings. The potential for Vermont to secure victories on each of these dates is strong, and the Catamounts' ability to match their win total from 2014 signficantly turns on the team's performances against these opponents.