As has become its signature in the 2010/11 season, the VU hockey club summoned its very best in the latter stages of Friday’s tilt versus Georgia Tech to win 6-5 in overtime. The game, the team’s final home contest of the year, was Vanderbilt’s fifth 6-5 victory of the season and the third in a row following two wins versus Louisville the previous weekend.
Pegged as “Senior Night” in honor of those playing their final game at the Centennial Sportsplex in a Vandy uniform, the night was ironically decided in large part by the play of a rookie to the program, freshman defenseman David Crowe. The Minnesota native netted two goals, a handful of penalty minutes, and even a nickname. While this alone would have made for a great article, the background behind Crowe’s availability to suit up puts his performance at the top of the list of this season’s most colorful stories.
“They can’t do that to our pledges! … “
Sensing that the roster might be light heading into the weekend, particularly on defense, coach Thomas Bernstein went to work early in the week to ensure that the club would be able to lock in every available player. “Georgia Tech came in ranked #12 and had been as high as #7,” Bernstein noted. “With our slew of injuries on D, we needed some reinforcements.”Â For help, Bernstein turned to injured junior defenseman Jack McCallum who, after spending the fall semester abroad, suffered a season-ending dislocation of his knee-cap in the first game of the winter against Ole Miss.
“Jack is a member of Kappa Sig,” Bernstein explained, “the house David has been pledging since the start of the semester. I figured Jack might be able to work some magic and spring him for the evening.” It was a long shot given that the fraternity had monopolized much of Crowe’s semester since the start of pledging, what with the host of late nights spent volunteering at the local senior center, children’s hospital, and public library.
Thankfully, the attempt paid off and McCallum was able to line up Crowe’s services for the game. “I was just glad I could help the team even with a bum knee,” said McCallum. The club looks forward to seeing the junior back in action next year (if not sooner).
Down Quick, Per the Usual
The night’s action got off to an inauspicious beginning when the Yellow Jackets’ star forward Zack Berry scored 40 seconds into the game, then again three minutes later. Following the first goal, Junior Nathan Tardiff was overheard telling his fellow defensemen, “No one’s moved the puck on us like that. Nobody.”
Shortly thereafter, sophomore Chris Sperandio put Vandy on the board with assists from senior Peter Dignard and junior Matt Kaminsky.Â Thus began a stretch through the end of the second period which saw the teams trade goals back and forth. Heading into the third period, the ‘Dores were down 5-3.
“The thing I love about our team is that we’re never too concerned about being down,” said Bernstein. “In fact, I walked into the locker room and said, ‘Boys, it’s 5-3 … we’ve got ’em right where we want ’em!’ Who knew that would prove out as directed.”
Work to be Done
The ‘Dores jumped out to a quick start in the third with a goal from Kaminsky, assisted by Dignard and freshman Mike Nisbet, just four minutes in. “At that point we were flying, no question we were coming back to at least tie that game,” said freshman Kyle Stachowiak. “Whenever Kaminsky does that fist pump celebration when he scores, we just seem to cut loose after that. Pretty cool.”
Senior P.J. Tatum followed up not even a minute later with a spectacular, Bobby Orr-esque diving goal that brought the Centennial faithful of approximately 47 out of their seats. Cutting from right to left, Tatum sliced through both defensemen and the center before sliding home a low wrister just past the goalie’s right pad on the blocker side. “It’s all about going high on those,” reflected Tatum, “so to be honest I thought the goal was just OK.” Regardless of the postmortem, the fact remained that Vandy was tied and headed towards a seemingly inevitable overtime showdown.
Backing up for a moment, one of the game’s more interesting subplots was one of the players from Georgia Tech’s semi-obsession with fighting the freshman defenseman. Out of the many taunts, threats, and flirtations came not only eight minutes of penalties against Tech but also the nickname “Sunshine,” an apparent reference to Crowe’s yellow helmet (the color of Breck, his high school in Minnesota).
“I loved it,” said a blithesome Crowe. “That guy was just insane. From what I could tell, his coach wasn’t too happy about his antics so that just made it even funnier.”
Crowe would eventually have the last laugh in overtime when, following a nifty series of passes to break out the puck, he skated in on the goalie from the right side and fired home a shot that hit the left post, then the right side of the net. With 33.1 seconds on the clock, the ‘Dores had sealed the comeback with a 6-5 win and a pile-on celebration in front of the Yellow Jackets bench.
“That could not have made that guy all that happy, neither my scoring nor that celebration.” Crowe added, “I can live with the nickname ‘Sunshine.’ I’ve been called worse.”
Dissecting the OT Winner
Before signing off on the game’s recap, it should be noted that the final 1:14 of the extra period did not exactly go according to plan. During the final stoppage of the game, coach Bernstein called his defensemen to the bench to discuss strategy for the remainder of the game.
“I told them to stay home, play solid D, and get to the shootout.” Recognizing that the Georgia Tech goalie may not have been in top form that evening, Bernstein felt strongly that the boys in black and gold would be able to pull out the W in penalties.
“I looked at P.J. and said, ‘Bud … please, please, please play D. There is a penalty shot with your name on it waiting for you in 1:14.” An immensely talented player, Tatum is what doctors call a DINO – Defensemen In Name Only, otherwise known to coaches as an OWFI – Oh Well, F- It. Bernstein then turned his attention to Crowe, saying, “David, we know Tatum isn’t going to do that so please, please, please … play defense.”
The design was set …
… and executed thusly …
Pictures = words.
A Break in the Action
The VU hockey club will be taking a few weeks off before firing back up with practice for the I-40 Face-Off on March 26th. In the meantime, we would like to thank everyone for making this 2010/11 regular season a great experience for the club members, their parents and family members, and the Vanderbilt community at large. It has been a blast from start to finish and we all look forward to capping it off with a banner event (and win) against Tennessee at Bridgestone.
The seniorsâ€™ last regular season game of their Vandy careers included many lasts.Â The one first was the inclusion of a speedy 1:11 rendition of the Star Spangled Banner to kick off the evening. Senior Anderson Funk called the ode to our nation “an inspiration” and “the ingredient we’ve been missing these past four years.”Â /Â Dignard notched three assists in Fridayâ€™s contest, this after posting four in last weekend’s Saturday night game against Louisville. The seven-point flurry left him first on the team in assists (14) and second in points (19) for the season.Â /Â Sophomore Kyle McCann finished an outstanding rookie year with an assist and a plus-2. The performance was enough to lock Kyle in as the team’s top point-getter (23), goal-scorer (10), and plus-minus leader (+25) for the regular season. Asked for comment on McCann’s tremendous year, freshman Alan Leeser said with his trademark brashness, “Sucks to be Bucknell!” (McCann played for the Bison last season before transferring to Vanderbilt.)