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Woodcroft Working with Cats

First-year head coach on the ice with his team for the first time
Published: Sep. 13, 2020 at 10:46 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Students have been returning to college campuses across the country and our region, and even though none of the local schools are playing games yet, athletes have started to return to their respective playing surfaces. That includes the men’s hockey program at the University of Vermont under the direction of first-year head coach Tood Woodcroft.

The Cats returned to the ice at Gutterson this week to begin preparing for the 2020-21 campaign...even though no one is exactly sure when that will start. The NCAA, in conjunction with hockey conferences across the country, announced Thursday that the start of the season would be postponed indefinitely. Woodcroft says it’s disappointing but he and his team know it’s the right call.

“The players come here expecting to play hockey and be in a competitive schedule as quick as possible. And we want to give them that experience," Woodcroft said. "So when I looked at the announcement, which I don’t think was a huge surprise, my first question was, ‘Are we going to be able to compete for something? Is there gonna be a tournament we can have as a goal that we’re gonna try to get to?’ And then it’s about how many games can we play to make this a meaningful season? One theme that comes from every single either NCAA or all the college coaches meeting, commissioners, athletic department is how do we keep the students healthy? And now they’ve figured out that we’re gonna have to pause the season. I have a lot of faith in people who are really, really, way smarter than I’m ever gonna be, and they’re gonna do what’s best for our athletes and we’re gonna prepare our players to be ready to play whether that’s November 6th or November 13th or it’s Thanksgiving or it’s the Holidays. Whatever it is, we’re gonna find ways to make sure our guys are ready to go.”

For now, the Cats are working in small groups rather than doing full sessions with the whole team. That may seem like a hindrance, but since this is Woodcroft’s first chance to work with the players, he says there are advantages to it.

“If you ask me, as a coach right now, it’s an advantage for us because we can have nine players on the ice, you have a few new coaches, and you’re able to learn from those coaches,” Woodcroft said. "Their new vocabulary, maybe different tweaks in the way that we play, and then especially the habits and details that our coaching staff wants the players to have inside their game. For a group of nine to learn that, when you can pull a player to the side and talk to them and explain things is a lot better than if you have a big group of 25 players on the ice. It’s a lot harder to make the contact with an individual. I’m not even kidding, I’m thinking about going forward continuing to do this in training camp because it’s allowed us to make connections with the players, for us it’s been great.”

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