Catamounts' Cullity has been making a name for himself

Son of offensive star, he's a defensive force

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / April 8, 2009
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WASHINGTON - When longtime University of Vermont hockey fans hear the name Cullity, they immediately think of Tom Cullity, the high-scoring forward who led the Catamounts in goals with 33 in 1979-80.

Almost 30 years later, the Tewksbury, Mass., resident still holds two school scoring records and shares a third.

His son, Patrick, shares the name and the passion for hockey, but instead of being a scoring whiz, he excels on defense.

Cullity, a junior, is the backbone of the blue-line corps, which will be crucial in Vermont's quest to shut down Boston University tomorrow night in the NCAA Frozen Four at the Verizon Center.

Points are not Patrick Cullity's forte. Sixteen teammates have more than his 6. But none has more value. Coach Kevin Sneddon said it's impossible to quantify the number of goals Cullity has prevented.

"He really is our veteran back on the blue line," said Sneddon. "We do have a senior on the roster - Kyle Kuk - who had a couple of tough injuries which have prevented him from being able to play really up until this point in the season. The rest of our guys are sophomores or freshmen, so Patrick is the guy with the most experience back at our blue line. He's just such a great competitor, whether it's practice drills or game situations, there's nobody else I'd rather have out there in an important situation when it comes down to needing overall defensive play and competitiveness. He just has that spirit in him that you don't often find in players."

Sometimes that spirit takes the form of excess passion, but Sneddon said that's a problem he doesn't mind.

"He gets overly emotional at times," said Sneddon. "We have to remind him to calm down, but I'd rather have to calm a player down than have to fire them up. I think he's had a great season for us. It doesn't show up on the scoresheet very often, but he really means a lot to our team for the number of hits and blocked shots and penalty kills that he provides for us."

Advised of his coach's assessment, Cullity laughed.

"I'm a pretty emotional player on the bench," he said. "I get excited and I get aggravated at times, but I think it helps motivate my game."

Coincidentally, Cullity will be facing the team for which he almost played. He was signed and sealed to go to BU but had a change of heart.

"There was an understanding between Boston University and the Cullity family that he was going to go directly from the Berkshire Prep School to BU," said Sneddon. "Then something changed. They agreed to disagree and he essentially decommitted. We had recruited Patrick pretty heavily. His father was an All-American here, and Patrick being from Boston, he really wanted to stay in that area. But when BU was no longer on his wish list and they'd agreed to go different ways, Patrick contacted us and we gained permission from BU to speak with him and had him back up on another visit and shortly thereafter came to an agreement that he would be a Catamount."

Cullity, 22, declined to elaborate on his reasons for the switch, saying UVM simply proved a better fit. He said his father's remarkable success wasn't a deterrent to attending UVM because as a defenseman, he wasn't going to endure the inevitable comparisons he would've faced had he been a forward.

"His mentality growing up was that he liked to see me on defense so I could see the whole game and understand it better," said Cullity. "It kind of just clicked, and that's where I always stuck. It's been quite a journey and a success. [My father has] always been behind the scenes. He's a pretty quiet guy and kind of lets me go about [making] my own decisions. That he played here was a bonus, but it kind of had to do with the coaches and the team and the fans and the school. Obviously, I'm very happy I made that choice."

Sneddon said Tom Cullity's history with the school was in no way an impediment to Patrick.

"Tom really wanted to see Patrick at UVM if it wasn't going to be BU," said the coach. "Sometimes players don't necessarily want to follow exactly in their family's footsteps. They were big shoes to fill. Tom was a legend here, he still is a legend here. He scored every time he touched the puck. Pat is a different player and didn't necessarily want to be lumped into that, that pressure of having to score. But Patrick realized it was a great situation and we were a program that was building and trying to make our footprint in a new league. He was a player who saw an opportunity to come in and make an impact right away and he really did. He's a big part of this run to the Frozen Four."

Sneddon has maintained all season that he has been happy the Catamounts could sneak up on other teams as BU, Northeastern, and New Hampshire dominated the spotlight. Cullity believes that once they got past some early stumbles, the Catamounts gained momentum. That led to victories over Yale and Air Force (in double overtime) in the NCAA East Regional.

"I think we had success early on winning here and there and not getting the respect like a BU does or a BC does," Cullity said. "Then we were finding ourselves creeping up the ladder and taking over games and maybe catching people off guard. We knew we had a good team. I think we just had to continue to prove it. I think it may have helped in the end being overlooked at times.

"We had a tough game [against BU in a 7-2 loss at Gutterson Fieldhouse] at the beginning of the season, getting our feet underneath us, and then we had a very successful weekend down there [with identical 4-3 wins against the Terriers Nov. 21-22] where we played two of our best games all year. They've been ranked No. 1 in the country most of the year, so I think we have something to prove. It will be a task, but we're ready for the challenge."

Frozen Four
NCAA men's hockey championship
When: Tomorrow, Saturday
Where: Washington
TV/radio: ESPN2, 1510 AM

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at