Last weekend the Vanderbilt Ice Hockey Club joined Vanderbilt’s football team in heading east to take on the University of South Carolina for an early season SEC East showdown. Unlike the football team, the hockey club played the Gamecocks twice plus they sandwiched in a face-off against the Clemson Tigers, USC’s in-state rival to the north.
Three hockey games squeezed into a 38-hour period. Those are just a few of the numbers that begin to tell the story of the weekend for the Commodores. Here are the others …
Number of seconds it took for the Gamecocks to score in Game 1.
The hallmark of the 2012/13 Commodores squad was slow starts so when the first period of the first game this season quickly devolved into a 3-goal deficit, returning members of the club and fans across the Twittersphere were asking, “Will we have a repeat?!”
Thankfully, also like the 2012/13 VU Hockey vintage, the club righted the ship and stormed all the way back to tie the game at 4-4 in the third period only to yield a late goal with 3:30 left and fall to @CockHockey* 5-4.
Number of wins during the weekend.
On Saturday following Friday’s tough loss, Vandy enjoyed a day of food and football before hopping on a bus to travel an hour and a half north to Clemson for a late 9:45pm game. Unlike the previous night, the boys got off to a fast start and never looked back.
“Our plan was to win the first five minutes,” said sophomore Jack Gibbons, “so we made a point of firing out of the gate with hard, physical play and crisp passing, especially in our zone. Being up three after the first, it was awesome to be able to play out the last two periods from ahead rather than having to fight our way out of a hole.”
“We responded well for sure,” said senior Anthony Bilotta. “It could have been a tough one given that the rink was so odd but the boys played great and we got the W.”
Bilotta was referring to the shorter rink and the netting above the surface that made flipping the puck out of the zone next to impossible.
The only trouble for the ‘Dores that night was having to hop back on the bus and head two hours home, only to wake up a few hours later and play the USC team again.
Total number of minutes the club played during the weekend.
While the scoresheets say Vanderbilt technically played 180 minutes, ask any of the boys and they’ll tell you they fell about 20 short of that total.
“What can you say other than it was pretty rough,” recalled freshman defenseman Andrew Dellapina. “We couldn’t finish a check, connect a pass, or stop a shot. It was brutal.”
In a game that started 2-2 after one, then 6-5 USC after two, Dellapina was referring to a third period that saw the Gamecocks pile on seven goals … yes, seven … in the third period to bury the ‘Dores 13-5.
Addressing a flurry of questions from the media about the implosion following the game, Coach Bernstein opted to take a long view on the loss, both backwards and forward. “Keep in mind this was the first regular season 3-game weekend our club has ever played,” said Bernstein. “Our opponents will play four games in a weekend and they’ll do it on the road as far away as Michigan. To date, we haven’t done that. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a statement of fact and a reminder that we have a lot of growing to do as a team before we can consistently compete with the better teams in our league.”
Number of players who scored their first goals with the club.
Congratulations to six members of the club who scored their first ever goals wearing the Vanderbilt sweater: freshmen Steve “It’s pronounced ‘WAY’!” Wei, Zach “Like the fabric” Satin, John “Sir Snipes A-Lot” Longman, Nick “The Hulk” Honkala, and Ketul “Nickname Pending” Patel.
Special kudos goes out to junior Zak Karlinski who, after knocking on the door countless times last season, finally notched the first goal of his Vanderbilt hockey career. He promptly followed with his second with a backhand laser from the face-off dot in the second game versus USC.
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Kicking Things Off At Home
The Commodores will be back in action this weekend, this time at home at the A-Game Sportsplex in Franklin, Tennessee, versus the Ole Miss Rebels on Friday night (9/20) at 8:30pm and Saturday afternoon (9/21) at 1:45pm.
If the Twitter chatter, headlined by a blanket-blitz campaign by our @PenaltyBoxRadio friends, is any indication, the crowds should be fantastic for the games. Even Coach Franklin is firing up the troops (see pic at the right)!
It should be a great couple of battles against a team that made Nationals last season. Hope to see you in Franklin … ANCHOR DOWN!
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* Ahead of last year’s USC games, the Vanderbilt hockey writing staff asked and answered the question, “What is a ‘Palmetto’?” This year we’re targeting a perhaps more risquÃ© question: What is a “gamecock”? Websters would have us believe that it is “a rooster bred and trained for cockfighting” though it seems hard to believe that a cherished academic institution such as South Carolina would pin its brand on the image of animals clawing and pecking each other to death. No, no, the more likely story is that some genius merchandising company with a wildly sophomoric sense of humor is at the heart of the naming effort. After all, everything … I mean, EVERYTHING … in the city of Columbia is one continuous stretch of innuendo through every bar, restaurant, and student hall. “@CockHockey” is simply the natural extension of that master plan.