The Vermont Lumberjacks have gotten off to a great start in the Eastern Hockey League this season. Defenseman Max Roth is a big reason.
By Steve Stein
“Max is battling defensively, blocking shots, and he’s moving the puck and contributing offensively,” said Lumberjacks coach Doc DelCastillo. “He’s in our top defensive pairing and top power-play and penalty-killing units. He’s a guy I can trust on the ice.”
The Lumberjacks were 14-6-0 at the Thanksgiving break. They had 28 points, putting them in second place behind the New Hampshire Avalanche (20-3-1, 41 points) in the four-team New England Division.
Vermont had outscored its opponents 77-49 and had won four straight and seven of 10 as of the holiday. This is Roth’s second season with the Lumberjacks. The 6-foot-1-inch, 200-pounder has taken the responsibility of veteran leadership seriously, and that’s paid dividends for both himself and the team.
Roth hadn’t scored through the Lumberjacks’ first 20 games this season, but he’d piled up a dozen assists.
“Right from the start of the season, I’ve tried to be a leader on the ice, on the bench and in the locker room,” Roth said. “I want to be a good teammate, a supportive guy. Coach DelCastillo has great respect for the veterans on the team and I don’t want to take that for granted.
“That leadership attitude has transitioned into my game. I’m playing better than I ever thought I could play.”
Roth’s last statement is huge because, as a ’97, this is his final year of junior hockey eligibility and he wants to play hockey in college.
“I’ve been in communication with college coaches and made some college visits,” Roth said. “I’m looking for a place where I can grow as a person and hockey player and, of course, get a diploma.
“I’m not putting pressure on myself, though, by setting a deadline for when I want to make a college decision,” he added. “When I find the right spot, I’ll know it. I always go to my parents for advice. I’m sure they’ll help me with my selection decision.”
Roth’s defense partner Andrew Barber had five goals and 16 assists through 20 games.
“I love being paired with Andrew. We’re working well together. He has a great offensive game,” Roth said.
Roth’s leadership hasn’t been limited to the Lumberjacks. He’s an assistant coach for the Burlington Bobcats U12 hockey team that plays at Leddy Arena, the Lumberjacks home building.
“I’ve coached kids hockey teams for a long time,” Roth said. “I try to be a good role model for young kids.”
Roth wasn’t one of the Lumberjacks’ top defensemen last season, but he improved as the year went along.
He played in 34 games and he had one goal and five assists. After not being on any special teams at the beginning of the season, he ended up on Vermont’s top penalty-killing unit.
After playing for Illinois high school hockey powerhouse New Trier in his hometown of Wilmette through his junior year, Roth joined the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wolves, a new U18 AAA team, and he was there for two seasons.
The Wolves won the North Pacific Hockey League championship in Roth’s second season there.
Roth left Wenatchee after signing with Vermont.
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