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.