Author: Andrew Dellapina

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.

Beber, Wood Power Vandy To OT Thriller In Home Opener

After a nearly seven-month hiatus, the Vanderbilt Commodores returned to the ice this weekend for a matchup with the Florida Gators. Despite the Commodores’ recent success, particularly at home where they boasted a 12-1 record last season in the fantastic new Ford Ice Center, the club has not won a home opener since the 2011-12 season. That changed Sunday as Vandy prevailed in overtime, 4-3.

The first period seemed to be a bit lacking in the energy department for both squads. Vanderbilt did not get off to a very fast start and a Florida team playing its third game of the weekend with only 13 skaters seemed to welcome that opening tempo. Despite some good chances for the Dores, a late Florida goal put the visitors up 1-0 heading into the first intermission. The Commodores responded with a surge in the early second period, but couldn’t break through the Florida defense until freshman Blake Beber stole a puck from a UF defender and beat the goalie for his first career Vanderbilt Hockey goal. Despite falling down on the celebration and generally looking like a freshman, Beber’s goal lit a fire under the Commodores. The teams traded goals in the remainder of the second period, leaving it all tied up at 2 with 20 minutes to go.

“You always hope to get contributions from your new guys, even if you don’t really expect it, so just having him get the goal was great,” noted senior forward and alternate caption Jack Gibbons. “But the way he scored, stripping the defenseman and tucking it on the breakaway was huge. It really got the team back into the game after a sluggish first period.”

In the third, Beber was once again the hero, scoring a goal eight minutes into the period which was assisted by linemates Gibbons and Matt Murphy. As time drew down, the Dores looked to close out the game, but some questionable decisions by the officials, including missed cross checks and punches thrown by the Florida squad, gave the visitors a chance to get back in the game. They took advantage of that opportunity by tying the game up with only 55 seconds left in regulation.

As the teams returned to the ice for a brief overtime period, the Commodores were determined not to let another winnable game slip out of their grasp at the beginning of the season. Defenseman Thomas Wood (Carson) took matters into his own hands by walking the blue line and firing a low wrister into the open far side of the net not even a minute into OT. The bench erupted and mobbed the overtime hero as Vanderbilt won its first home opener in four years.

“It was really great to get a W our first game,” explained Wood, a sophomore from Massachusetts. “We were a little rusty and with Florida having already played a few games they had some good chemistry going. It was looking a little dim after giving up a goal with under a minute left, but thankfully I got a great opportunity right at the start of OT. Dopps screened the goalie well and Longman drew 2 guys so it was a good team play with me simply taking the shot. Couldn’t be happier with the result.”

The Commodores look to take their success on the road this weekend with two games against South Carolina before returning home for the College Hockey Scholar Shootout. As always, keep up with the team on Facebook, Twitter or right here on the website for all information about your favorite team.

Looking Ahead: A Preview of the Commodores’ Upcoming Season

The 2014-15 Vanderbilt Commodores tore through their regular season schedule, with an 18-4 record and outscoring opponents by 90 goals. However, due to a scarcity of matchups with ranked opponents and an underwhelming performance at the SECHC Tournament, the team was not extended an invitation to the ACHA D3 South Regionals.

This year’s edition of the Commodores looks to silence the doubters, taking on a tougher schedule and playing more of the top teams in the southeast. The season kicks off with a home game against SEC foe Florida followed by a trip to Columbia, SC to take on the Gamecocks. The next weekend, Vanderbilt will host the second annual College Hockey Scholar Shootout.

“Feedback on last year’s Scholar Shootout was overwhelmingly positive from teams as well as fans so we’re very excited to again host the only student-athlete focused showcase in the ACHA,” explained Jack Gibbons, rising senior and club Vice President. “We’re happy to have a mix of returning and new teams at the showcase, all nationally ranked in the top 35 academically. We expect a lot of great, competitive hockey to be on display and we’re aiming to repeat as winners of the ‘Davey’ trophy.”

After the conclusion of what has quickly become one of Vanderbilt’s marquee events, the squad will take on a number of challenging competitors including SEC rivals Ole Miss and Arkansas, along with a first time matchup with Delaware and a game against Clemson. In early November, sparks will fly as the Commodores travel to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Ice Vols. The team from the east is certainly looking for revenge after a two game sweep last season which saw the boys in black and gold outscore UT 14-5 and featured a very physical brand of hockey. That will serve as a precursor to the latest of Vanderbilt’s Thanksgiving adventures, a trip to Orlando to participate in a showcase hosted by UCF.

“The tournament hosted by UCF is the elite tournament in the south for ACHA, so we are very excited to be a part of it this year and play against some tough competition,” remarked club President John Longman. “It should be a great opportunity for us to prove ourselves.”

In the few short weeks that remain in the fall semester, the Dores will finish off with a game each against Alabama, who has moved up to the D1 level, and Life University. Upon returning in January, Vanderbilt will begin with a road trip to Indiana and away games vs Life and Georgia Tech before returning home to play two games against Georgia. This home series leads right up to the SECHC Tournament, where the Commodores hope to compete for a championship as well as impress the rankings committee ahead of this year’s regional tournament.

“Last year we were disappointed to not get to regionals despite what we felt was a solid campaign,” noted goaltender Ryan Kellenberger, who was crucial to the team’s accomplishments in his first season. “However, we now have some success to hopefully build off of and we are going to make a push to play some other high level teams outside of our division this upcoming season. We have a few trips lined up (notably one to Florida) that will be good markers for us throughout the year as we want to increase our exposure within the league.”

You can view the full schedule here.

Vanderbilt Starts Slow, Finishes Strong Versus Georgia

The Commodores entered this past weekend riding a five-game winning streak and looked poised to trounce a Georgia squad which had dropped six of its past eight. Apparently no one told the Ice Dogs. They pushed the boys in black and gold to the very brink on Saturday before Vanderbilt prevailed in a shootout and rolled to a 9-2 victory on Sunday.

Saturday afternoon began slowly, and it wasn’t just for Vandy. A miscommunication with the officials led to Ford Ice Center’s Hockey Director Craig MacDonald donning the stripes and managing the game solo on minutes notice until reinforcements arrived in the second period. Perhaps the unusual situation unnerved both teams, as they combined for a scoreless and penalty-less first frame. In the second, John Longman scored two goals and Ryan Doppelheuer added one to give the Commodores what seemed to be a commanding 3-0 lead. A late goal with 21 seconds left pulled Georgia within two as the teams prepared for the third period. Longman would finish off his hat trick in the third, but a series of defensive miscues by Vanderbilt gave Georgia the opportunity to surge back, netting three goals in the period and sending the game to overtime.

The overtime period seemed like it would be over quickly, with Longman and Doppelheuer driving to the net less than a minute into the extra time. However, thanks to a sprawling save by Georgia goaltender Nick Carlotto and two posts rung, the Ice Dogs stayed in the game. The two squads traded chances before the final buzzer sounded, resulting in a tie for ACHA rankings. However, a shootout was still to be held in order to determine SECHC East standings.

“I felt like we had a few opportunities to pull away and we were never really able to do it,” noted captain Greg Kirk. “It is something that we are disappointed by but I’m proud of the team for sticking together and battling through it.”

Longman, Doppelheuer and Jack Gibbons couldn’t score in the shootout for the Dores, but Ryan Kellenberger responded by shutting down Georgia’s shooters and kept Vandy in the game. In the first sudden death round, Coach Thomas Bernstein called on Zach “Silky” Satin, a defenseman known for his slick moves and graceful stride. Satin didn’t disappoint, beating the Georgia netminder to give the Commodores an opportunity to finally seal the victory. Kellenberger stood tall on the final save to salvage an important SEC East point in what was an otherwise disappointing outing for Vanderbilt.

“I go into every game with a general idea of who I’ll look to in the event that we go to a shootout,” explained Bernstein. “Popping out your two top scorers is a no-brainer, but after that you have to work off of what you saw in the game, plus who wants it. Gibby wanted that third try badly and I loved that fire. He deked their goalie out of his pads but got unlucky by hitting the post. I just felt Zach had a really strong game and would deliver for us. Turns out it was a good decision. In a game where I would have liked to have had some decisions back, that was thankfully a good one.”

If there was any concern about the team’s performance on Saturday, it was quickly quelled on Sunday. Longman scored two in the first 40 minutes and Greg Kirk added a blast from the point as the Commodores headed into the third period up 3-1, slightly overshadowed by a controversial call made by the officials which nullified a seemingly good goal by Bobby Mallon. The third period began just as precariously, with Ryan Doppelheuer serving a 10 minute misconduct for arguing the previous call. However, Vanderbilt was determined not to make the same mistakes as the day before. Matt Murphy scored a goal in the first minute and added another while Jack Gibbons, Tucker Rhodes, Doppelheuer and Mallon each added a tally of their own. A late goal by Georgia was not enough as the Commodores dominated, 9-2.

“I think we realized we didn’t play our best game Saturday,” commented John Longman, who became the club’s first ever 30-goal scorer with a five goal weekend, “and we really focused up Sunday and showed what we are capable of. Veteran guys and leaders like Greg Kirk and Ryan Kellenberger really helped us refocus, and it was exactly what we needed with such big games against Tennessee coming up.”

Those games, Friday night at 7:45 PM and Saturday afternoon at 3:45 PM (both at Ford Ice Center) are crucial to the hopes of clinching a first place berth in the SECHC East, which would set the team up nicely for success in the SECHC Tournament. Follow the Commodores on Facebook (Vanderbilt Club Ice Hockey), Twitter (@VandyIceHockey) and Instagram (@vanderbilt_hockey) as well as right here on the official team website for more news and videos as the team gears up for its exciting regular season finale.