When a young hockey team enters a new season, sometimes it takes a while for the group to find the right recipe for success against more seasoned, veteran-laden competition. For the 2013/14 Vanderbilt Commodores ice hockey club, that perfect recipe remains elusive through the first two weekends of the year.
One thing is for certain, though, the recipe does not include maple syrup.
“It’s A Secret Ingredient!”
Prior to the club’s home opener in Franklin, Tenn, versus Ole Miss, the “Frozen Commies” (link) convened for a pre-game dinner at senior Anthony Bilotta’s apartment. Bilotta, who prior to Friday’s game was named team captain for the 2013/14 campaign, was kind enough to both host and cook.
“I was excited to kick off the season the right way, with pasta and meatballs like we used to do in high school,” explained Bilotta.
A native of Leominster, Mass, he channeled his Italian-meets-New-England roots to pop a little extra carbo-loading into an already rich meal.
“I used an entire bottle of Aunt Jemima in the meatball mix,” said Bilotta, channeling the self-confidence of a young Chef Mario Batali. “It gives it that little extra pizzazz that keeps you guessing.”
The reviews were all appreciative … and mixed. “I’m a spontaneous guy, I like to keep myself guessing as much as the next guy,” said freshman John Longman, “just not when it comes to meatballs. When it comes to Italian food, give me a little spaghetti, some Rao’s sauce, a plain jane meatball, parmesan cheese, and I’m good to go.”
The dinner also included a few heated rounds of MarioKart, the perfect way to get the competitive blood flowing for a big hockey game.
Out-Classed (on the Scoreboard)
The on-ice portion of the weekend proved challenging for Vanderbilt. Facing an Ole Miss team that made the ACHA DIII National Tournament last year, the club knew it was in for another battle similar to the one it faced just seven days prior against South Carolina.
Vanderbilt started strong on Friday by finishing the first period knotted at 1 on a goal by freshman Steve Wei. The second period followed a similar script though the momentum seemed to be tilted in an unfavorable direction for the home team. The problem? Stopping Ole Miss on the power play.
Said Coach Holston about the trouble, “We just weren’t adjusting to their power play. They’d work the puck around and inevitably we’d have one of our guys trying to mark two of theirs in front of the net. The math just doesn’t work there, you can’t win those battles when that happens.”
Despite goals from Longman, Bilotta, Matt Neurohr (his first in a Vanderbilt sweater), Zak Karlinski, and Zach Satin, the Commodores yielded five power play goals and an empty netter in a 9-6 loss.
Given time to reflect on the game (and game film), the Commodores mounted a more formidable defense in Saturday’s tilt but the result was the same in the win/loss column – Ole Miss 5, Vanderbilt 2.
“It’s a learning experience,” said junior Greg Kirk who, along with senior Jack Delehey and sophomore Jack Gibbons, was named alternate captain for 2013/14. “We played a tough, classy game against a seasoned group. We’ll figure out how to fix a few things and with some more practice, some more chemistry, we’ll be in good shape for the long haul this season.”
Next Up … Parents’ Weekend!
The Commodores will be back on the ice Friday (9/27) at 8:30pm and Saturday (9/28) at 3:00pm at the A-Game Sportsplex in Franklin, Tenn, as they look to get back in the win column against Indiana University. It will be the first time Vanderbilt plays the Hoosiers who will be making their 2013/14 season debut in Nashville. Tickets are free of charge and standing room will be available so stop by the Sportsplex for some awesome hockey action (or if you can’t make it stay tuned to Twitter for game updates and analysis). #ANCHORDOWN!