It’s commonly said to not forget where you came from.
On Tuesday, Massachusetts hockey coach John Micheletto will look across the ice and recall memories and experiences he gained as a member of the Vermont coaching staff for the nine seasons prior to coming to UMass.
However, Micheletto doesn’t plan on letting his own emotions get in the way of the task at hand.
“I tend not to, I don’t have a lot of sentimentality for that,” Micheletto said. “Inevitably, you’re going to come across guys that you coached with and coached against. No matter who we play, we need to be the same, so, it wouldn’t really be a good message if certain games had more meaning for me, or more emotion for me than others.”
Micheletto began his nine-year coaching career with the Catamounts as an assistant,but was promoted to associate head coach under current Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon for his final six seasons with the team.
Micheletto saw it all during his time in Burlington, Vt. He helped the team successfully transition from the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference into the Hockey East Association in 2005-2006, culminating in a Frozen Four appearance for the Catamounts in 2009. The ability to reach the Frozen Four is an opportunity that many coaches never have a chance to experience, so, it’s no surprise that is what sticks out most to Micheletto about his time as a Catamount.
“People sometimes have a lifetime of coaching experience without having the chance to get to the national tournament and the Frozen Four,” he said. “Just from a performance standpoint, that had to be a highlight.”
Off the ice, Micheletto had the chance to recruit a number of players and then watch them develop into special talents and eventually get drafted into the NHL. The most notable of which is Viktor Stalberg, who was drafted in 2006 by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the sixth round and is currently under contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.
In total, Micheletto helped recruit 12 players at Vermont that were later drafted, including sophomore Connor Brickley, a second round pick in 2010 and the third-highest Catamount ever drafted.
But now, Micheletto is a Minuteman, and his knowledge of Vermont could come in handy Tuesday when the two teams square off for the first time this season.
“I mean, it’s interesting because I’ll know the personnel a little better than other places or other teams that we play against,” Micheletto said. “But, (with) systems and tactics, they’re doing different things than when Joey (Gasparini) and I were there. They got a new staff and invariably there’s going to be a difference in the way that they play.”
Whether they have a new system or not, the Catamounts (2-4-2, 2-4-2 HEA) are certainly exceeding preseason expectations and are one point away from tying their entire conference total from last season. They sit one point ahead of UMass (3-5-1, 2-5-1 HEA) within the conference, but are two places ahead of the middle-of-the-pack Minutemen in a crowded conference.
The early-season success for Vermont comes as no surprise to Micheletto, who saw the progress up close last season and knew it was going to be a dangerous team this season.
“You know their success is no surprise for Joey, nor I,” Micheletto said. “Obviously, I have a lot of respect for Kevin (Sneddon) and the job that he does there. He’s proven to be a good coach over his years in the business, and we know that they have talented players because those are guys that we recruited. So, we’re approaching the game being appropriately respectful of the success that they had, without over-respecting them.”
Micheletto built a strong resume in his time at Vermont, but now he must put all prior feelings about the Catamounts in the rear view mirror and focus on preparing his UMass team for a very important game.
Micheletto has not forgotten where he came from, but it is apparent that he is focused on where he is now.
Patrick Strohecker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @MDC_Strohecker.