Tag: Arkansas

Two-Win Weekend Highlighted By First Victory Over Arkansas

Last season’s Commodores cruised through much of their schedule, beating teams by sheer talent and the ability to pile up goals. However, playing disciplined, physical teams proved to be a challenge for Vanderbilt in 2014-2015. This past weekend the team was offered an opportunity for revenge against two such clubs, responding with two victories in three games against Ole Miss and Arkansas.

The weekend began on Friday night at Ford Ice Center where Vandy took on Ole Miss. Last year the Dores suffered a heartbreaking loss in Mississippi as the Rebels scored two goals in the final two minutes of the game to win. The game started quickly thanks in large part to the efforts of freshman forward Blake Beber who scored one goal and assisted another. The rest of the period was fairly quiet and VU left the ice after one with a 2-0 lead. In the second, Ole Miss tied the game but John Longman responded only 11 seconds later to put Vandy back on top. Beber took over again in the third, scoring an early goal and adding a second assist on Jack Gibbons’ late in the game to prevent a comeback in what was a 4-2 game. The freshman’s fourth point of the night gave the Commodores a 5-2 lead they would carry until the final buzzer.

“Going up against Ole Miss was a great way to start the weekend because we knew we had three big games to take care of,” explained Beber, who is second on the team in scoring. “Getting the energy boost from Friday night with a big team win was great to take into the two Arkansas games.”

With a victory already under their belt, the Dores turned their attention to Arkansas, a team widely regarded as the powerhouse of the SECHC with five of the last six SECHC Tournament Championships. Vanderbilt entered Saturday evening 0-3 all-time against Arkansas, being outscored 27-2 in those three games. The game started off fast-paced and physically, with neither team reaching the scoreboard until the Razorbacks scored a goal with just over two minutes left in the first period. The second period featured more physical play, but no scoring. The game remained 1-0 until Arkansas capitalized on a 5-on-3 powerplay midway through the third period. Penalties were an issue for the Commodores throughout the third period, with four minors and a misconduct hindering any chance at a comeback. Matt Murphy scored a goal with 1:10 left to cut the lead to one, and although Arkansas hung on for the 2-1 victory, Vanderbilt’s players felt that they had proven they could compete with a team who had mystified them in the past.

“The loss on Saturday helped us realize what we needed to do to beat this team,” said senior defenseman Michael Hite. “This team had been a lot of trouble for us in the past, but we came in the next morning with the expectation of winning.”

The Commodores jumped on the Razorbacks early on Sunday, with graduate student Brock Raffaele scoring his first goal of his Vanderbilt career early in the first to put the home team ahead. It was another fast and physical game, but Ryan Kellenberger stood tall in the pipes to keep the 1-0 lead going through the first two periods. Early in the third, Captain John Longman scored his first of the game, and the lead would only increase from there. Longman would score two more goals in the period for a natural hat trick and Jack Gibbons added one of his own with just over a minute left to put the Commodores up 5-0. Kellenberger stopped all 22 shots he faced for his first shutout of the season against arguably the toughest opponent the Commodores have faced thus far.

“This was a great weekend for us against a very good Arkansas team,” noted Kellenberger. “Things did not go our way Saturday, but we stayed the course and Sunday we took it to them. I think it is a big stepping stone for us as we know we can play with the best teams in the league if we play like we know we can.”

After the weekend, the Commodores’ record sits at 7-2 and the team is currently tied for first in the first ever SECHC Coaches’ Poll. Next weekend Vanderbilt takes on Delaware and Clemson at home, looking to continue their recent success.

Vandy Goes 1-1 At SEC Tourney

The Vanderbilt hockey club’s 2013 SEC tournament ended on a dramatic note as the Commodores skated to a come-from-behind OT win over the Auburn Tigers in one of the weekend’s three consolation games. The Saturday match-up followed a Friday night loss to the University of Arkansas Ice Hogs by a score of 7-1.

“It’s not the way we wanted to finish up the tournament,” said senior captain Kyle McCann, “but it was still nice to come out with the win on Saturday against a very improved Auburn club.”

With the win and loss, Vanderbilt completed its formal season with a record of 10-13. The club will conclude its 2012/13 campaign on Friday, April 12th, versus the University of Alabama, a rematch of last October’s contest that saw a tight 4-3 game tilt in the favor of the Frozen Tide. April’s game, dubbed the “I-65 Face Off” in line with last year’s “I-40 Face Off” versus Tennessee, will take place at Bridgestone Arena following the Nashville Predators’ game against the Dallas Stars.

Before we take a look ahead, however, let’s first take a look back at the drama that transpired back on February 22nd and 23rd in in Huntsville, Alabama.

Taking On Number One

Heading into the tournament, the ‘Dores knew their draw was about as tough as you could get. Beat Arkansas, the number 4 team in the South, and you would have Ole Miss, number 7, on deck. Win? Great, congratulations – now meet number 5 Alabama.

Like a run through one of those Ninja Warrior obstacle courses, Vanderbilt fired into its Murderers’ Row-esque gauntlet with an impressive first burst. Amidst some brutally physical, and undisciplined, play from the Hogs, sophomore Daniel Hogue sniped a laser glove side on second team All SEC goalie Kevin Scheer to make it 1-0 at the end of one. Said a charged up Hogue following the play, “#mylife #classic #notevenkidding #SECTournament #vandypuck #charterbusisthebestbus.”

Unfortunately, the momentum turned sharply in favor of the Ice Hogs from then on.

“Give them credit, they’re a heck of a team, especially when they stay out of the box,” conceded assistant coach Lee Kanouff. “Alabama, Kennesaw, and now Arkansas. We know we can hang with the big guys in the region, we just need to find a way to play 60 minutes and win.”

Interestingly, the loss, which at the time offered no silver linings whatsoever, turned out to be mildly impressive by comparison. Reasoned freshman Jack Gibbons, “Arkansas beat Florida 8-1 [in the semis] and Alabama 8-0 [in the final] to win the tourney. I think that makes us the team that lost to them by the least.” Elias Sports Bureau confirmed the freshman’s assessment of the facts, thereby salvaging some semblance of positivity in the wake of the thrashing. So the team has that going for it, which is nice.*

Nails Gets Hammered and the ‘Dores Get Inspired

Saturday’s game versus Auburn did not start off well for the Commodores in any way, shape, or form. The Tigers, who are on the rise just three years into their club’s existence, tallied first to take an early lead 1-0. Not to be outdone by a teammate, Auburn’s senior goaltender Miles Bishop matched the good start on the offensive end by shutting down his goal on the other.

Heading towards the first period intermission, the game then took a violent turn in the form of a vicious elbow to freshman Chad “Nails McGillicudy” Wyatt’s left temple right in front of the Auburn crease.


“Chad sold out on the play,” recalled junior Eliot Rosenfield, “and man did he get creamed for it. It was a dirty hit made worse by the fact that the guy was about six times Chad’s size.” The Auburn player received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the assault.

The game was paused with 0:18 left in the first period as both teams were sent to their respective locker rooms while an ambulance was summoned to the rink. Fortunately for Wyatt and Vanderbilt, the damage was worrisome but not critical and, following a range of diagnostic exams by some wonderful doctors at Huntsville Hospital, he was able to join the team for the bus ride back to Nashville.


“I love his play,” said Coach Bernstein following the incident, “but we’re going to have to have a talk about playing smart moving forward. No more kamikaze missions out there, just hard-nosed hockey along the boards and a healthy focus on keeping your mind and body healthy for the next Organic Chemistry or Biology exam on the schedule.”

Now with a new sense of purpose and urgency, the Commodores launched into the second period with a quick power play goal from freshman defenseman Michael Hite that evened the score at 1-1. The momentum was fleeting, however, as Auburn quickly countered with a short-handed rebound and a long-range wrister. The deficit was now 3-1 at the end of two.

“We were outshooting them like crazy,” explained junior Jack Delehey, “we just needed to keep plugging and pick a corner or two. And that’s what we did.”

On the wave of an onslaught on the Auburn net, Vanderbilt forward Brad Pesce scored once, then scored again in the final three minutes to even the contest. At the end of regulation, the game was 3-3 with the Commodores outshooting the Tigers 51-26.

The 52nd shot would be a memorable one.

Just 0:24 into the extra stanza, Pesce once again played an integral role in the game by corralling a loose puck in the top right part of Vanderbilt’s defensive end and launching a perfect pass to a streaking Anthony Bilotta down the left side of the ice. The junior, no doubt the fastest player on the team, created instant separation from the closest Tiger defenseman and rifled home the game winner, low glove on a breakaway.

The ending was a fitting one for Bilotta who approximately 18 hours earlier stepped out of his normally quiet, workmanlike persona to address his teammates and coaches with some raw, heartfelt feedback between the second and third periods of the Arkansas game. “I want to compete, it’s how I play,” said Bilotta following the loss, “and in that moment I felt like I needed to share that feeling with the boys. Winning is fun and we have the talent to win, to win a lot.”

The conclusion to Saturday’s game was in turn all the more gratifying for the junior transfer. “We played a heck of a third period, the kind of period that can beat anybody. That’s the way we should play all the time. Because that’s fun.”

Not Leaving Empty-Handed

While the weekend did not contribute any new hardware to the overall team’s trophy case, the event did send sophomore Greg Kirk home with a special honor. With his parents in attendance, Kirk was named to the All SEC second team as voted by the coaches in the conference.


“I just thought coach wanted me to hang around to accept our academic award,” said a surprised Kirk following the award ceremony. “Honestly, I was a little unclear about why it had to be me. Now of course it makes sense and I’m thrilled to have won the award on behalf of the club’s efforts this year, and I’m glad I was physically there to accept.”

Vanderbilt also placed 21 players on the conference’s All Academic team, the most of any program.

“In our quest to be the most employable sports team in the country, I’m obviously proud to know our boys are taking care of priority number one,” said a proud Coach Bernstein. “I know their parents are as well!”

“The Last Hoorah”

As mentioned, before we put the 2012/13 season to bed we will have one more grand event – the “I-65 Face Off” versus Alabama at Bridgestone Arena on Friday, April 12th. For more information about the game, check out the special event site at http://vanderbilthockey.com/event/i65faceoff.html. It should be a terrific battle so mark your calendars and be sure to stop by the rink.

Thanks to everyone for making the official portion of 2012/13 such a special one for all of our players and in particular our seniors Kyle McCann, Scooter McLaughlin, Beast Mozur, and the rest of the crew. We thank you for your support and look forward to both a great event in April and an even better 2013/14!

PS …

On behalf of the entire club, we’d like to extend a HUGE THANK YOU to Mr. and Mrs. McCann for donating Vanderbilt hockey sweatshirts to the boys and for the anonymous donation we received (you know who you are) to pay for the charter bus to the SECHC tournament. Your kindness and generosity made the experience an unforgettable one for everyone involved. Thank you so much and we look forward to seeing you (and many of the other parents) here in Nashville the weekend of April 12th!


* Caddyshack non sequiturs, still providing laughs after 32 years … as far as you know.

VU Heads To SEC Tourney With Poor Record, Great Grades, High Hopes

The Vanderbilt Commodores Ice Hockey Club (9-12 overall, 3-5 in the SEC) will take the ice this evening for the last official weekend of the 2012/13 season. The stage, the Southeastern Collegiate Hockey Conference Tournament, will feature a tough battle for Vandy in the opening round as they face SEC power Arkansas (24-9-1 overall, 7-1 in the SEC) at 9:50pm CT at the IceComplex in Huntsville, Alabama.

The match-up between the two teams could not be more contrasting in terms of cultures, records, grades, mascots, history, dues, hometowns, favorite colors … the list goes on. To gain some perspective on the cavernous divide, one need look no further than last season and the two interactions the clubs had with one another, one on-ice and one off.

In a December 2011 showdown in Fayetteville, the last time Vandy and Arkansas played, the Commodores faced the Ice Hogs in a road battle that resulted in what doctors might call, in technical terms, an annihilation. Arkansas systematically peppered the net en route to an impressive 13-0 drubbing, a loss that now-junior Jack Delehey labeled the worst he had experienced in his life. “The worst part was that we drove 9 hours to the middle of nowhere for that,” Delehey recalls. “We had a bus with WiFi though, so it wasn’t a total disaster.”

That experience was then followed by a second event that took place far away from any arena or scoreboard. It turned out that five of the Arkansas players were ineligible for much of the 2011/12 campaign due to issues with their class credits and transcripts, including one player who submitted a fake registrar’s report to the league. At the time the number one team in the southeast and a lock for nationals, Arkansas subsequently had to forfeit the remainder of the schedule which opened up a spot for Vanderbilt in the regional tournament and also paved the way for the Commodores to make a run at the SEC tournament. Vanderbilt would finish third in the event. It was good fortune for Vanderbilt who, ironically, often leads the SECHC in All-Academic honors. (On that note, FYI for VU hockey parents – Vanderbilt once again logged terrific grades this year with more than 70% of the club maintaining a 3.2 or better cumulative GPA. < INSERT_SLOW_CLAP >)

With Arkansas eligible and back in the mix for this year’s tournament, it will be a tall order for the ‘Dores to make another run at equaling or topping last year’s finish. In order to do so, Vanderbilt will have to beat not only the Ice Hogs but also Ole Miss and Alabama. All three teams made the regional tournament with the latter two advancing to next month’s national tournament.

For more information about the tournament’s game times and information, be sure to visit SECHC.com or check out information about the event dates and times. The club would love to see some black and gold in the stands throughout the weekend so be sure to drop in, enjoy some hockey, and introduce yourselves if you’re in the area. Anchor down!

Thoughts On Getting Blown Out Nine Hours From Home

During the 2008 presidential campaign, then Senator Barack Obama asserted that, in reference to Senator John McCain’s attempts to claim the mantle and mantra of change, “You can put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig.” Fast forward to 2011 in an equally spirited battle, this time for the lead position in the Southeastern Collegiate Hockey Conference, the Vanderbilt hockey team found itself uttering similar sentiments following Saturday’s result versus the Razorbacks of Arkansas. “You can put lipstick on a 13-0 loss to the pigs. It’s still a 13-0 loss to the pigs.”

First, the lipstick.

Despite coinciding with the first day of Vanderbilt University’s final exam period, the team cobbled together a line-up of twelve skaters and a goalie that included seniors Brenden Oliver, Jack McCallum, Tom Trepanier, and Matt Kaminsky for the nine-hour trip to Springdale, Arkansas. Compared to the Commodores last game versus the Ice Hogs two years ago when five skaters and a goalie (notably Oliver, McCallum, and Trepanier) showed up three hours late for game time, the delta in commitment is something that everyone in the Vanderbilt hockey family should be proud of.

The Commodores can also hold their heads high about doing exactly that, holding their heads high, through the game’s final buzzer. With the exception of sophomore Connor Smallwood’s temporary displacement of reason, judgement, and sanity that resulted in a five-minute major and game misconduct ( … it was a benign but nevertheless blatant head-butt which, per ACHA rules, warrants the penalties that were rendered), the team demonstrated the two things it has preached all season: heart and class. Where other teams may have devolved into a UFC-like hackfest, Vanderbilt instead focused on getting that elusive first goal of the evening. While the attempts proved futile on a rough night in the heart of the rural South, the effort displayed will surely pay off down the road as the club continues to define, solidify, and build upon its foundation for success.

A las, it remains a pig.

Moral victories aside, it would be the definition of arrogance to expect to beat the two-time defending SECHC champions and #4-ranked team in the ACHA’s Southeastern region with a short bench and several top scorers left at home in Nashville. Simple as that. Moving forward, there is a heck of a lot the team can do to rally together and be more prepared for the challenges that remain on the horizon, most notably a weekend set versus Tennessee following winter break. The coaches can find new and innovative ways to install and establish more effective systems. The players can make sure they carve out time each week for practice and plan ahead for potential conflicts (e.g., exams, studying). The officers can schedule around known non-hockey events such as formals, bid night, and the like. And finally, we can all eat better before games.

Said freshman Harry Londoff, “I went to that Joe’s Italian Pizza and Pasta with the team with the good intention of carbo-loading, but that chicken parmigiana, it just looked too good.” The menu choice was apparently tasty going down, less so coming up. “I was sick as a dog,” said a flushed Londoff following the game. “Bad move, won’t happen again.” Senior captain Matt Kaminsky, demonstrating his upperclassmen savviness, knew better when he ordered “penne with a little olive oil, spinach, and tomatoes.” Per Matt, “It was the perfect pre-game meal.”

All The ‘Dores Want For Christmas Is …

A time machine to replay the game with hind sight wisdom in hand? A Men-In-Black mind eraser device? SECHC standings credit awarded for scoring well on the exams the boys endured on Saturday? Clearly, Santa will not be able to furnish any of these; instead, he’ll be stuffing stockings with the healing power of time and distance. Amen to that.

A VERY Important Note of Appreciation

The team has an incredible debt of gratitude to pay to Jack McCallum’s parents for covering the cost of the team’s charter bus for its trip. The luxury liner was a terrific way to ensure a safe and on-time arrival to the game, plus it offered players the opportunity to bond over their passion for things such as movies (e.g., Remember the Titans and Mystery, Alaska) and music (e.g., Skrillex … parents, divert your ears, it’s a nasty combination of nails-on-chalkboard beats and hyena-screeching). For their generosity above and beyond the call of duty, the club extends its most heartfelt thanks to Mr. and Mrs. McCallum.


And so ends another installment of everyone’s favorite ongoing saga, “Iced is Better: Vanderbilt Hockey 2011/12.” Fear not fans and believers, your ‘Dores will be marching forward to better and brighter days. In the meantime, please be so kind as to look into the light to the right.