It was apparent 20 years later, when Vermont’s first Frozen Four team faced off this month against an all-star team of Catamounts alumni.
Martin St. Louis and Eric Perrin — “the speedy snipers who led the Cats to Vermont’s first first-place finish in the ECAC,” The New York Times wrote in 1996 — still had it.
“(Marty) and Eric have some serious chemistry,” marveled Mike Paliotta, captain of Vermont’s 2014-15 team and now a defenseman for the New York Rangers. “It’s amazing to watch those guys years later finding each other without even turning their heads. That was cool.”
Led by St. Louis, Perrin and goalie Tim Thomas, the Catamounts turned heads during the 1995-96 season. They led the greatest hockey team in Catamounts history to their first Frozen Four.
St. Louis scored both goals in the sports moment judged the greatest in school history, a 2-1 victory against Lake Superior State in the NCAA Tournament’s East Regional final.
He was assisted on both by Perrin, including the game-winner with 1:57 remaining. Thomas, meanwhile stopped 32 of LSSU’s barrage of shots.
“I felt we were real fortunate to hold off Lake Superior’s pressure in the first and second periods,” Vermont head coach Mike Gilligan said. “In the last period we showed what we are made of.”
The result made up for Vermont’s previous postseason history — 0-2 in the 1988 NCAA Tournament and 9-19-3 in ECAC events. (Vermont competes in Hockey East today.)
In the Frozen Four, Vermont lost to Colorado College 4-3 on a controversial goal.
But St. Louis, Perrin and Thomas would go to postseason glory in the NHL, all playing for Stanley Cup champions.
Many players from that team reunited on Aug. 7 for “Vermont’s Greatest Ever Pick-Up Game,” including St. Louis and Perrin — the top two scorers in school history. They lost 6-4 to the team of all-stars but both scored and flashed their old chemistry.
“We had that sense long before we came here,” St. Louis told the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press. “We were able to do some of the things we think through our head.”
“We just think the game alike. We’ve done that since we were 10 years old. We carried that here for four years and we carried that to our professional hockey,” Perrin added. “I found that pretty special today.”
On the cover and above: Martin St. Louis helped lead Vermont’s charge to its first Frozen Four in 1996. (Courtesy UVM Athletics)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Towson and Tulane
• Tuesday: Tulsa and Union
• Wednesday: Utah Valley and Valparaiso
• Thursday: Vermont and VCU
• Friday: VMI and Western Carolina