Author: Blake Beber

Vandy Opens The Season With 2-1 Start In SEC Play, Including Split Versus South Carolina

Following an opening weekend drubbing of Mississippi State 15-1, Vanderbilt cruised to a 7-2 win in its weekend opener versus SEC rival South Carolina despite an even split of 24 penalties. The Dores dropped a chippy Game 2 against a stout and stubborn Gamecock Defense.

The Vanderbilt Commodores Ice Hockey Club kicked off its season with an SECHC matchup against Mississippi State in what proved to be a lopsided affair that saw a little bit of everything – a 10-goal first period, goals from a slew of freshmen, appearances by all three Commodore goalies, and even the club’s first live-streamed event on Periscope. In attendance were a number of VU Hockey greats in town for the club’s alumni game set for the following Saturday. The legends dated from 1976 (Wade Cowan) through the mid-90s (Roland Baggot) and all the way up to the 2000s (Jordan Katz, Ryan Weekes, and Scooter McLaughlin), to name a few. It was a fantastic start to the season for the club and a great weekend for all involved – current and alumni players, both on and off the ice.

The following weekend saw the Commodores square off against perennial SEC power South Carolina. Having split with SC the previous two seasons, Vanderbilt’s goal was to sweep the weekend and set the tone for the season. Unfortunately, like the previous two, the club would only get halfway to that goal.

In Game 1 of the weekend, the Gamecocks took an early lead in the first period after a puck from the point deflected off multiple defenders and looped its way over Commodore net minder Ryan Kellenberger’s shoulder into the net. Nick Honkala would knot the game up with 7:24 remaining, and after the intermission, scored again to put the Commodores ahead 2-1 just over 2 minutes into the period. Freshman Jeremy Gross proceeded to score after a filthy setup from rookie Sophomore Patrick McNamara, extending the lead to 3-1. Patty Mac made his way past one defender and bounced back around another before dishing a great pass to an open Gross. The freshman buried his chance, and followed it up with an even better celebration, uncharacteristic of a young rookie. The ‘Dores took a two-goal advantage into the second intermission.

It was all gas for Vanderbilt in the third period. Nick Sanchez, another rookie Sophomore, opened the scoring 2:07 into the period for his first career goal, and would add another eleven minutes later in the period. Ryan Doppelheuer would add 2 goals as well, one of which was a well-placed wrist shot to the top shelf on the power play. Those goals came courtesy of 2 assists from Doppelheuer, two from captain John Longman, two from Sanchez, and one from Zach Satin. Senior goaltender Ryan Kellenberger, fresh off of his SEC-MVP winning season, made 27 saves on 29 shots for the ‘Dores. The game would end 7-2 in favor of Vanderbilt, but not before the referees called 24 penalties (12 on each team), most of which were contested by both teams’ coaches.

South Carolina proved a much tougher opponent in the second game of the weekend, coming out with more intensity and physicality than in the opener. Vanderbilt absorbed the pressure well early on behind great play from Kellenberger. It wasn’t until a little over halfway through the second period when the Commodores finally broke through. Rookie Senior Spencer “Rosie” Rosenstein broke the deadlock with an incredible wrist shot. He stripped a defensemen on the doorstep, and falling over, managed to roof one directly above the head of the Gamecocks goalie. Rosie of course cele’d, though his form fell short of the rookie Gross.

The Gamecocks would knot the game minutes later and the game eventually became a back and forth affair of chances, but the Gamecocks had the last one, and buried it with under 3 minutes remaining. The ‘Dores couldn’t rally back from there, and fell 2-1.

The weekend split leaves the ‘Dores’ record at 2-1. Their next games are home for the Scholar Shootout Tournament, where Vanderbilt is looking to defend its title (and the coveted Keith Davis Memorial Trophy – a.k.a. “The Davey”). The 3-game weekend will include match-ups against Georgia Tech on Fri. October 7, Notre Dame Sat. October 8, and Northwestern Sun. October 9.

New And Returning Faces Power Dores To Weekend Split Versus Indiana

A long Christmas vacation left the Dores eager to embark on their first road trip and games of the new year. Two matchups against a strong Indiana University team managed to thrust Vanderbilt right back into the midseason swing of things. Over the course of the two games, a 5-2 Vanderbilt victory on Friday night followed by a 2-0 loss the next day, both teams found themselves fighting for every inch of ice. The weekend produced physical, penalty-ridden, yet still entertaining affairs between the two clubs.

Firing In To The Spring

At the start of the first game, it was evident the boys in black and gold were experiencing a bad case of “bus legs.” A six-hour bus ride to Bloomington made for some sloppy play in the first period. Indiana managed to break the 0-0 deadlock with just under five minutes remaining in the period. Vanderbilt quickly kicked into gear after the Hoosier goal, and popped in two quick tallies thirty seconds apart. The first came courtesy of Brock Raffaele, and Ryan Doppelheuer managed to add another off a hustle-play that saw him bury a rebound past a helpless Indiana goaltender. Doppelheuer’s goal was his first since the opening game of the season. The junior forward is thankful to be back in action after recovering from an injury in the fall.

The Commodores took its 2-1 lead into the second period knowing that the two goals were not reflective of how the team played the first period. Fortunately, the boys regrouped for a huge second period that saw the Dores add three goals. Raffaele kicked things off with a goal on the power play just two minutes into the period. Calen Leverant, playing in his first game of the season, scored later in the period off a rebound in front of the net that saw Indiana’s netminder scrambling to find the puck before Leverant was able to poke it in.

“Since I had not skated for 11 months prior, I was quite nervous going into the game,” confessed Leverant, the team’s resident north-south freight train who spent the fall studying abroad in Singapore. “Scoring after a long hiatus was extremely important because it removed all of my anxiety. The play was simple, I just forechecked hard and crashed the net.”

Indiana managed to reduce the deficit with a late goal in the second, but the Commodores restored its three-goal lead in short order. Defenseman Steve Patalano jumped in on a rush with under a minute remaining, skating the length of the ice to tap home a rebound on a 2 on 1 opportunity. With a 5-2 lead heading into the third, Vanderbilt controlled the game through the final stanza to secure the win.

Power Play Struggles Doom Dores

Saturday night’s game was an entirely different affair defined by excessive penalties by Indiana and power play woes from Vanderbilt.

An energy-filled first period only produced a single goal from Indiana. The intensity was high but it was clear that goals were going to be a very hard to come by. The second period was a different story as Indiana began to stack up penalties, but the goals did not come for Vanderbilt. The Hoosiers took six penalties in the second period alone, granting the Dores multiple power plays that included two short 5 on 3 advantages. However, the Commodores could not click offensively and the Hoosiers seemed to effortlessly kill off any penalty they took. Vanderbilt tried to regroup during the second intermission, strategizing over the power play and discussing cracks in the Hoosier defense. The opportunities at redemption were not scarce, as Indiana took four more penalties in the third period, however the Dores were still unable to capitalize. The offense was clicking, but Indiana’s goalie was more intent on preserving his shutout. A few close chances had the Commodores knocking on the door, but Indiana tallied a dagger with three minutes remaining to ensure their victory.

A Family Affair, And Debut

One of the highlights of the weekend (and really the season) was the debut of “rookie” Andrew Herzog. A 27-year-old third-year law school student and father of two, “Dewey” had flirted with the prospect of skating for the club for each of his three years at Vanderbilt. Unfortunately, the timing never lined up for the Air Force graduate to don the black and gold due to family commitments and other responsibilities on the work and school fronts – that is, until this spring, Dewey’s final semester.

As fate would have it, the stars finally aligned, and with the help of some babysitters “stationed” in Bloomington, Dewey was able to skate with the team for the first time. The result? Massive body checks (the likes of which the club hasn’t seen since 2011 grad Nathan Tardiff patrolled the blue line for the Commodores), tremendous leadership in the locker room, and even an assist on a rush that Doc Emrick might describe as “workman-like.” To quote Dewey’s 4-year-old son Gavin, “My daddy is great at hockey!” His Commodore teammates agree, and they are excited to have Dewey aboard for his swan-song-semester at Vanderbilt.

Just Getting Started

This tough but humbling weekend has Vanderbilt excited to play out the rest of the campaign against a host of other great teams. The Dores will have to wait to rebound from the sting of its loss to Indiana, though, as this weekend’s games versus Life and Georgia have been canceled due to weather. Next up for the Dores will be a surging Georgia team loaded with young talent and strong goaltending. It’ll be a terrific challenge in the weekend leading up to this year’s SECHC tournament set to be played at the Ford Ice Center, home of your Vanderbilt Commodores.

For fans and family scattered across the South and Mid-Atlantic, be safe this weekend. Thanks for your continued support and looking forward to hitting the ice again this week. Anchor down!

The Dores Shake Off the Post-Break Rust with a Two-Win Weekend Against Delaware and Clemson

The Commodores returned from fall break confident following their most recent win against Arkansas. The Dores knew they would have to keep that level of play and intensity against the likes of Delaware and Clemson if they wanted to complete a weekend sweep and push the team’s record to 9-2. While the team’s best hockey was not on display over the two games, the Commodores managed to eek out wins against two tough opponents.

Friday night the Dores took on a tough Delaware team, and while both teams took over half of the first period to settle in, the game turned into a shootout. Vanderbilt’s junior captain John Longman put the Commodores up midway through the first period with a goal on the power play. Delaware responded just five minutes later with a goal of their own, but Vanderbilt freshman Blake Beber took a long Bobby Mallon board pass for a breakaway soon after to put the Dores up 2-1 going into the second period. With the rust of fall break off, the second period was all business for the Commodores. Despite giving up two early goals to relinquish the lead, Vanderbilt managed to pile up three goals from Beber, Matt Murphy, and John Longman to take a more comfortable lead into the third. Down two goals, Delaware managed to give the Commodores a scare by scoring with seven minutes left, but junior forward Nick Honkala erased any doubt when he blasted a power play goal by the Delaware goaltender two minutes later. The 6-4 victory gave the Dores confidence going into a Sunday game against a tough Clemson team.

Vanderbilt came ready to play Sunday morning against Clemson, and that showed over the course of the first two periods. Longman tallied a goal in the first with a rocket over the goalie’s shoulder off of the Brock Raffaele face-off win. Raffaele then went on to score in the second, deking two defenders and the goalie en route to the undoubtedly nicest goal of the season.

The 2-0 lead after two periods had the Commodores in good position to win the game, but they needed a complete third period to do so. Raffaele was not done adding to the highlight reel. He topped his goal in the second period with another triple deke that dropped jaws on the bench. Nick Honkala then pounced on the Tigers for another goal just over a minute after. It seemed as though Clemson was going to bury their heads as the Dores kept scoring, but two quick goals from the Tigers gave them life in a 4-2 game. With just over a minute left, the Dores’ lead continued to slip as the Tigers scored a deflected goal to trim the lead to one. However, Longman had enough with the comeback and iced the game with an empty netter to cap off his four goal, and Vanderbilt’s two win, weekend.

The Dores didn’t exactly make it pretty, but wins are wins. The team leaned heavily on junior goaltender Ryan Kellenberger to hold down the fort when the fall break rust seemed to leave Vanderbilt in a defensive haze. The team will be looking to ride their three game winning streak as they travel to play two games against in-state rival Tennessee on November 6th and 7th.