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Skiers Second in Nationals,
Hockey Cats are Back

Tops in east, NCAA runner-up
The Catamount ski team put together a strong season, winning all of the Eastern competitions with the exception of their own UVM Carnival, where rival Dartmouth carried the day. They also brought the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association title back to its longtime home in Burlington. In 2004, Middlebury snapped the Cats’ 28-year winning streak at Easterns. This year’s team started a new streak of their own.

With the 2005 NCAA Skiing Championships on home snow at the Stowe Mountain Resort and Trapp Family Lodge, the Catamounts went into the meet with thoughts of a possible national championship. Thanks to spectacular performances by skiers in the giant slalom, that looked like an early possibility as the Cats jumped out to a first-day lead.

In the women’s giant slalom, Vermont’s junior standout Jamie Kingsbury won by a full two seconds, taking her second national championship in three years. Kingsbury is the first Catamount to win two national championships in the women’s giant slalom.

Overall, the Catamounts went 1-6-8 in the event as freshman Jilyne McDonald and junior Amy Cochran finished sixth and eighth to earn All-America honors in their first NCAA appearances.

“It’s nice to be in the winner’s circle for sure,” said Kingsbury. “It was hard snow and I like the hard snow. I had a good lead, so for the second run I just wanted to make it down without any major mistakes.”

In his first NCAA appearance, Vermont freshman Greg Hardy skied to a national championship in the men’s giant slalom. Second after the first run of the day, Hardy used a solid second run to take over first place and become the third Catamount since 2000 to win the national championship in the men’s giant slalom. Paul Epstein backed him up with a tenth place finish.

Displaying the strength of their team balance, especially their Nordic squad, Denver moved into first place on the second day of the competition. UVM alumnus Knut Nystad ’94 is the Pioneers’ head Nordic coach.

The Cats held onto second for the rest of the competition with a number of strong performances. Ethan Foster and Lowell Bailey both earned All-America status in the Nordic races. Hardy finished on the podium again, with a third place in the slalom, where Epstein took tenth again to earn his All-America citation. Amy Cochran battled through a tough second run to take sixth in the women’s slalom.

Vermont’s second place at the national championships was the 14th in the history of the program and third in the past five years. Overall, the Catamounts picked up 10 All-America citations in the 2005 Championship.

ECAC Final Four farewell
Pre-season polls predicted the UVM men’s hockey team would finish near the bottom of the ECAC. By most accounts, Gutterson was supposed to be closed for the season by mid-March instead of gearing up to play host to a three-game quarterfinal series against rival Dartmouth. But the 2004-2005 edition of Catamount hockey proved themselves over and over to be a talented, resilient team, rejuvenated in the second year of Coach Kevin Sneddon’s tenure.

With one win and four losses early in the season, it seemed that those predicting another down year for UVM hockey may have been right. That changed quickly in late October when the Cats took on Minnesota-Duluth, the top-ranked team in the country at the time, and put up a win and a tie on consecutive nights playing on the Bulldogs’ home ice. UVM followed the upsets in Duluth by going unbeaten in nine straight games, working their way to a #11 national ranking.

The Cats got on another roll in the late season to earn home ice in the ECAC quarterfinals. The team closed with wins over St. Lawrence, Yale, Princeton, and Brown, before ending the regular season with a tie against Harvard.

The playoff series against Darmouth was the first hosted at Gutterson since 1996-97, the Perrin-St. Louis-Thomas era. Playing before the usual full house, UVM lost to Dartmouth in the Friday night opener. And Saturday night it looked like the Cats were teetering on the brink of extinction until, with 1:46 left in overtime, Mark Lutz fired a pass to Chris Myers, who put the puck in the goal to even the series.

“Coach has talked about composure all year and that’s what we want to do,” Myers said after the game. “Stay composed no matter what happens out there, and that’s what really paid off in the end.”

After UVM put Dartmouth away the next night, Sneddon was full of praise for his team. “To come back after losing game one and sweep the next two games … it’s all character in that room. That’s what got the job done,” the coach said.

Though things didn’t go the Cats’ way at the ECAC Final Four, where they lost to Cornell and Colgate, Vermont left the ECAC in style. The Catamounts join the Hockey East conference next fall. Season-end individual honors went to Jaime Sifers, named the ECAC’s best defensive defenseman and second-team all conference; goalie Joe Fallon, ECAC Rookie of the Year; Scott Mifsud, second-team ECAC; and Torrey Mitchell, ECAC All-Rookie team.