UVM women’s hockey is hosting a Hockey East semifinal. Here’s why it’s notable.


Selected to finish in the bottom half of the Hockey East coaches’ preseason poll, the University of Vermont women’s hockey team’s 2021-22 season was a surprise to some.

But ahead of the Hockey East semifinal round, the Catamounts are still playing and it’s not too late to hop on the bandwagon of the hottest team in the conference.

Already this winter UVM has snapped records, brought home Olympic hardware and beaten the No. 1 ranked team in the country. If you need more reasons to root for the Catamounts, read on:

Vermont hosts semifinal

The UVM Catamounts celebrate Theresa Schafzahl's first period goal to jump out to a 1-0 lead during the Catamounts' Hockey East quarterfinal game vs the Providence College Friars on Saturday afternoon at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

The UVM Catamounts celebrate Theresa Schafzahl’s first period goal to jump out to a 1-0 lead during the Catamounts’ Hockey East quarterfinal game vs the Providence College Friars on Saturday afternoon at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

Starting off the list is simple: No. 2 Vermont (22-10-3) has never made the Hockey East semifinals, never mind hosting one. Watching the Catamounts on their biggest stage to date is easy … Gutterson Fieldhouse on Wednesday at 6 p.m. against No. 3 Connecticut (23-8-4).

Stream: Hockey East semifinals

Tickets: Hockey East tickets

The Catamounts’ nine-game win streak in the middle of the season, the longest in program history, was jump-started with a triumph over Connecticut on Jan. 8.

Profile: Vermont women’s hockey battles adversity during most successful season in program history

Hometown Hero

Vermont’s Bella Parento (3) skates with the puck past New Hampshire’s Tamara Thiérus (18) during the women’s hockey game between the New Hampshire Wildcats and the Vermont Catamounts at Gutterson Fieldhouse on Saturday night December 19, 2020 in Burlington, Vermont.

Vermont’s Bella Parento (3) skates with the puck past New Hampshire’s Tamara Thiérus (18) during the women’s hockey game between the New Hampshire Wildcats and the Vermont Catamounts at Gutterson Fieldhouse on Saturday night December 19, 2020 in Burlington, Vermont.

Bella Parento, Montpelier’s own, has worked the blue line for the Cats in every game this season. Parento, who has tallied nine points this year, is one of only a few Vermont skaters who have appeared in all 35 games. Both of her goals have been game-winners, too, including the decisive tally vs. No. 1 Northeastern.

Vermont’s defense has a 90.7% penalty kill efficiency on the year — good for second in the conference behind Northeastern.

2022 Olympians return

United States' Kendall Coyne Schofield (26) and Finland's Sini Karjalainen (2) battle for the puck during a preliminary round women's hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, in Beijing.

United States’ Kendall Coyne Schofield (26) and Finland’s Sini Karjalainen (2) battle for the puck during a preliminary round women’s hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, in Beijing.

Didn’t get enough Olympic hockey? Look no further than this Vermont team that boasts four Olympians on the roster.

Finland’s Sini Karjalainen is hot off winning a bronze medal in Beijing and is back in the defensive zone for Vermont.

Kristyna Patkova, Blanka Skodova and Natalie Mlynkova represented the Czech Republic in the country’s first-ever women’s Olympic tournament appearance. Skodova, a goalie, was the lone Olympian that did not enter the game in the team’s quarterfinal win over Providence.

Olympics: How Vermonters fared at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing

McPherson, Schafzahl shine for UVM

UVM's Theresa Schafzahl maneuvers past Providence College's Sara Hjalmarsson during the Catamounts' Hockey East quarterfinal game vs the  Friars on Saturday afternoon at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

UVM’s Theresa Schafzahl maneuvers past Providence College’s Sara Hjalmarsson during the Catamounts’ Hockey East quarterfinal game vs the Friars on Saturday afternoon at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

One is the single-season record holder as the winningest goalie in program history. The other holds two impressive records for a skater over one campaign.

Sophomore Jessie McPherson’s season between the pipes has been nothing short of incredible. In 23 games this winter, McPherson has 15 wins while holding teams to a 1.92 goals-against average. McPherson’s goals-against average puts her fifth overall in the conference.

In the 4-1 quarterfinal win over Providence, McPherson turned back 31 shots.

More: UVM women’s hockey routs Providence in Hockey East quarterfinal

UVM's goalie Jessie McPherson makes a pad save on BU's Clare O'Leary during the Catamounts' game vs the Terriers at Gutterson Fieldhouse earlier this season.

UVM’s goalie Jessie McPherson makes a pad save on BU’s Clare O’Leary during the Catamounts’ game vs the Terriers at Gutterson Fieldhouse earlier this season.

Senior Theresa Schafzahl is having the best offensive statistical season for a Catamount skater in program history. The Austria native is Hockey East’s leading scorer — the first time a Catamount has held that title — and UVM’s single-season goals (25) and points record holder (46). Schafzahl broke both of Vermont native Amanda Pelkey’s marks that stood since the 2013-14 season. UVM is also plus-32 when Schafzahl is on the ice.

File: Schafzahl breaks UVM women’s hockey’s points record in comeback win over Boston College

And Tuesday, Schafzahl was named Hockey East’s player of the year — the first Catamount to earn the honor. Last week, she was also the lone player selected unanimously to the Hockey East first team.

Maude Poulin-Labelle was also named to the first team. Kristina Shanahan got a second team nod and McPherson was an honorable mention pick.

Jim Plumer, in his ninth season on the Catamount bench, was voted unanimously Tuesday as Hockey East coach of the year. He was co-coach of the year in 2014.

UVM’s best season ever

The UVM Catamounts celebrate their 4-1 Hockey East quarterfinal win over the Providnece Friars on Saturday afternoon at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

The UVM Catamounts celebrate their 4-1 Hockey East quarterfinal win over the Providnece Friars on Saturday afternoon at Gutterson Fieldhouse.

The list ends as simply as it started: This is the best season that the Catamounts have ever had.

Most wins in a season. Highest seed in the conference tournament. First ranked team in program history and 2021-22 was the first time Vermont beat the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

More: How UVM women’s hockey knocked off the No. 1 team in the country for the first time ever

Contact Jacob Rousseau at [email protected] Follow on Twitter: @ByJacobRousseau

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: Hockey East: 5 reasons to root for Vermont in the tourney semifinals





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