It wasn’t so much the luck of the Irish as it was hot goaltending and a strong youth movement up front that led Vermont to the 2016 Friendship Four title in Belfast, Northern Ireland this past weekend.
Freshman goalie Stefanos Lekkas, one of nine freshmen for Vermont, posted a career-high 40 saves to lead the 20th-ranked Catamounts to a 5-1 win in the title game over No. 3 Quinnipiac and earning Vermont the Belpot Trophy.
The ASN Player of the Week also had 33 saves in Friday’s semifinal win over UMass as Vermont continues its impressive run up the college hockey ranks.
Vermont is 9-3-2 overall and has rocketed to No. 7 in the Pairwise rankings. The only Hockey East foes ranked higher are UMass-Lowell and Boston College, ranked fifth and sixth respectively.
Lekkas has posted a .940 save percentage and 1.72 goals-against average (both fifth best in the nation) with an 8-1-2 record as Vermont rides a six-game unbeaten streak into a Dec. 9-10 showdown against highly touted Boston University.
The title game loss was just the fourth of the season for Quinnipiac, now 9-4-2.
Lekkas played two seasons in the USHL for the Sioux Falls Stampede, leading them to the 2015 Clark Cup.