Back in Nash-vegas, ‘Dores Set To Face Palmetto State Foes

The Vanderbilt Commodores hockey team, fresh off two road trips to tropical hot spots Olive Branch, MS, and Kennesaw, GA, are back in Nashville this weekend to play the first of two home stands versus teams from the state of South Carolina – the Clemson Tigers this weekend and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks next weekend. These two pairs of games will be the last regular season match-ups for the Commodores ahead of the SECHC Tournament set for 2/22 through 2/24 in Huntsville, AL.

With the stakes sky high – regional rankings and SECHC tournament seedings are up for grabs – the topic on the minds of Ice ‘Dores nation fans is no surprise: What the heck is a Palmetto and why is it so important to the state of South Carolina?

A Question for the Ages: What is a Palmetto?

Upon consulting the Wikipedia for answers, it appears that the Palmetto (or “sabal palmetto,” also known as the “cabbage palm”) is a tree. “It is native to the subtropical and warm temperate southeastern United States as well as Cuba and the Bahamas. In the United States it was originally found near the coast throughout most of Florida and north to the coast of North Carolina. As a result of horticultural relocations, cabbage palms are now found throughout the subtropical Gulf and South Atlantic States. It is the state tree of both South Carolina and Florida.”

Great, so it’s a tree. What’s so special about the Palmetto though? Why co-opt it as a nickname, especially when Florida claims the very same sabal palmetto as its own official tree? (By the way, first the tree, then Spurrier. Where does the madness end South Carolina?)

“On June 28, 1776, Charleston patriots under William Moultrie made a fort of palmetto trunks and from it defended successfully against the British in the Revolutionary War.”

There’s your answer folks. The palmetto is symbolic of a determined, revolutionary spirit, forged at the making of our great union.

Moving on …

Having Fallen Back In 2012, Vanderbilt Springs Forward In 2013

Following a fall semester marked by transition and growing pains, the Commodores club has reset its approach to the semester with a focus on team chemistry, fun, and (like all great championship hockey teams) board games.

“I think we’re riding a new wave of success thanks to the world’s greatest board game Settlers of Catan,” said junior assistant captain and recently elected club president Jack Delehey, who spent the fall on a cruise ship with the Semester at Sea program. “It’s a three-time winner of the world’s greatest board game award which, if you don’t know, is kind of a big deal.”

“Think Monopoly meets Risk with a little Colonial America mixed in,” added junior David Crowe, Delehey’s roommate and an avid Catan-er himself. “Back in Minnesota, it’s all anybody plays before a big game.”

In addition to board games, Vanderbilt has also benefited from some new arrivals and returning players to the line-up, notably junior transfer Anthony Bilotta, second-year law student Cory Reno, sophomore Logan Johnston, and senior Stephen “The Beast” Mozur.

“These new guys have brought some fresh legs and energy to the line-up,” says Coach Kanouff. “Anthony for example has had a huge impact out of the gate with four goals against Memphis and one against the #2 team in the South Kennsesaw [State]. He can play anywhere on the ice which is a nice luxury to have as a coach. Then you have Reno. What can you say about the guy other than that he never smiles and that he’s the consumate professional in terms of his approach and compete level. He’s a great presence in the locker room.”

Of the new players, Coach Holston added that, “It’s been great to have [Logan] Johnston and Beast back in the mix. Logan is a smart player who throws the body and gives you 100% every shift, and Beast … well, Beast is like the heart and soul of the team. And he’s a Flyers fan, so he’s got that going for him … which is nice.”

Battles In The Rearview

The Commodores enter the weekend versus Clemson sporting an 8-9 record following two hard-fought losses in Atlanta last weekend. The first came at the hands of SECHC rival Georgia who, despite having a short roster, are one of the favorites to win the SECHC tournament.

Said Coach Bernstein of the game, “We went in with a plan to pepper their all-ACHA goalie Vince DiCarlo plus shut down their leading scorer and returning MVP of the league Peter Kacer. We were successful on the first point, we just didn’t get many pucks by him. As for Kacer, well … the guy lit us up. For three goals. Again.”

There were some bright spots in the game however, like senior Scott McLaughlin’s ESPN Top Ten-worthy goal at the end of the first period.

Recalled freshman Jack Gibbons who made the trip despite being on IR, “Scooter flew down the right side one-on-one, then pulled one of his patented toe drags while cutting to the middle. He dangled so hard that the defenseman’s ankles broke, leaving him crumpled in the corner. Scooter then went bar-down on the goalie. Just an unreal play.”

Conjuring some of the magic from last year’s end-of-season game versus Georgia where the ‘Dores erased a third period three-goal deficit en route to an overtime win, it looked like Vanderbilt might repeat the feat for a 15-minute stretch. With deflection goals by junior Alan Leeser and freshman Chad Wyatt, the Commodores had the momentum against a tired UGA squad. Unfortunately, the run was cut short not by the clock but by an unfortunate penalty call against Delehey.

“What can you do, the guy moved his elbow and pushed my stick up into his helmet. It was a touch call and just bad luck.” Kacer then scored an empty-netter to close out the game and his hat trick. UGA 5, VU 3.

A Measuring Stick Game

Saturday’s tilt versus Kennesaw State, the #2 team in the South, was the battle the club expected. Despite having a short bench in both numbers and stature (i.e., KSU had a Zdeno Chara-sized centerman), Vanderbilt kept the score tight through nearly two periods. Bilotta rifled home a first period power play goal from the point in the first to cut the KSU lead to 2-1, then sophomore Daniel Hogue sniped a breakaway goal to bring Vandy back to one goal down 3-2.

In the third period the Commodores seemed to show a bit of fatigue, physically and mentally, as the Owl lead stretched to 6-2 but Reno stepped in to net the club’s third and final goal of the game.

While the concluding score, 7-3, seems like a pretty sizable dismantling, it doesn’t tell the story of how hard the black and gold fought for 60 minutes. It also doesn’t convey the fact that sophomore goalie Andrew Keen went into beast-mode (a la Mozur) to save 53 of 60 shots. It was a game that the club will surely build from, both through the rest of this season and into next year.

Bring On The Tigers

Tonight’s game versus the Tigers of Clemson will be the second ever meeting between the two clubs. The first took place back in 1992 and interestingly included a whopping two goals by goalies in a single game, one for each team. The Elias Sports Bureau claims that the event has never happened before in a recorded, organized hockey game. Perhaps we will see more history in the making this evening.

Game times are 10:15pm CT at Centennial tonight (Friday, 2/1) and 7:30pm at A-Game Sportsplex tomorrow (Saturday, 2/2) in Franklin, TN.

Can’t make the game tonight? Have no fear – @PenaltyBoxradio will be broadcasting LIVE from Centennial! Tune in for all the action, just click the link on the sidebar on this website.

Thanks for the support folks and ANCHOR DOWN!

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