Vanderbilt Hockey landed back in the “W” column this past weekend with two wins against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 6-5 on Friday (1/28) and 7-4 on Saturday (1/29). Playing in front of capacity crowds both nights (85 fans strong!), the Commodores overcame a season’s worth of penalties in one weekend to improve to 11-3-1 on the year.
Said coach Thomas Bernstein, “Particularly with the game Saturday night, I’ve never been prouder of a team in my life, as a player, coach, or fan. With the slew of injuries and other circumstances we endured in the days leading up to, and through, the weekend, it was just awesome to be able to notch a couple of W’s.”
A Chaotic Start to Friday
Friday’s contest, a scrambled mess of disorganization, frustration, and injury, got started on just such a trajectory even before the game’s opening face-off when Vanderbilt’s scheduled game manager who operates the scoreboard and maintains the score-sheet canceled due to illness.Â Enter Jack “The Bunny” Delehey, a freshman winger who tore his meniscus playing basketball hours earlier, to fill the position.
“I didn’t even realize people played basketball in Massachusetts,” said a frustrated Bernstein, “especially a short prep school kid like Jack. I just can’t believe we lost him to what I think we all can agree is a far inferior winter sport.”
Delehey, who it should be noted did not even have to attend the game let alone man the scoreboard, was instantly under the gun as his greenness proved to be a sore point for all parties involved, in particular Mississippi State’s coach.Â From not learning how to post penalty times until the second period to not keeping a record of the times penalties were logged on the score-sheet throughout the entire game, Delehey’s performance left the Bulldogs fairly miffed.
When asked in the post-game press conference if the vitriolic response to his score-keeping bothered him, Delehey explained, “Look, what more can I do.Â I’m enrolled in Clock Management 105, a freshman-level class in the college of Arts & Sciences.Â When I signed up, I fully expected to learn this and other valuable skills.Â Turns out ‘clock management’ refers to how a person should observe, process, and react to situations in the final moments of games – football, basketball, baseball, and, you guessed it, hockey.”
“I’ve already emailed my professor to add clock management, literally speaking, to the syllabus.Â We’ll see what happens.”
Penalty Minutes > Total Game Minutes … Almost
Friday’s game was wrought with penalties, 52 minutes combined between the two teams.Â The highlight (or low-light depending on your perspective) was a sustained 3-on-3 session that lasted for more than a minute.
“It looked like a drill, not a real game” said senior Matt Maggiore. “We’re about old time hockey. Toe Blake, Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore, that’s more our style … not that mess.”
The third period closed with yet more drama, this time a result of the rink informing the ‘Dores that their ice time would end promptly at 12:30am.Â Said goalie Brenden Oliver, “We would have never been in that situation had there not been all of the penalties.” In order to ensure the completion of the game, the referees thankfully agreed to speed up stoppages between whistles, a move that was again not well received by the visiting club.
Amidst the melee, the Commodores were able to rev up the offense with early goals from sophomore Kyle McCann, junior Matt Kaminsky, and senior Nathan Tardiff.Â Senior Anderson Funk also scored, his second of the season, sending the Vandy bench into a veritable frenzy. From that point forward, the team elevated its play to another level. (Post hoc ergo propter hoc or legitimate causal nexus? Stephen “The Beast” Mozur maintains that it was “definitely the latter.”)
McCann and Kaminsky each added a second en route to the 6-5 win.
Starting with a Whimper, Ending with a Bang
Saturday’s game got off to a rocky start for the Commodores when the Bulldogs stuffed in a rebound a scant 10 seconds into the contest. “We were in a daze in that first period,” said freshman Alan Leeser. “We didn’t act like the game had started until well into the second.”
Indeed, the evening looked like it would be a long one for Vanderbilt, especially after the Mississippi State club fired home its fourth goal of the night 1:20 into the second period to take a two goal lead. Then came the turning point of the game, a scrum in front of the net that resulted in freshman Mike “Southie” Nisbet, Zach “The Killer” Abelman, and McCann getting game misconducts along with three of the MSU players. Like flipping a switch, the ‘Dores turned on the afterburners from then on, locking down the defense and firing up the forecheck. The first line lead the way with goals from senior Peter Dignard and sophomore Chris Sperandio, his second of the contest, plus two from Kaminsky.Â Evan “Pennies” Sclafani also tallied for Vanderbilt en route to the 7-4 win.
Slashes Claim ‘Dores for the Game, Likely the Season
The weekend was not entirely positive for the Vanderbilt club.Â Two of the defensive stalwarts for the Commodores, Tardiff and graduate student Ben Loss, went down with injuries that will likely end their seasons and, sadly, VU careers.Â Tardiff suffered a separated shoulder on a questionable hit late in Friday’s game which was followed immediately by a Marty McSorley-esque two-handed chop to his lower back. In a similar vein, Loss took a vicious slash to his hand that resulted in a broken thumb.
“It’s a rough sport, totally understand that, but those plays were completely unnecessary,” said coach Bernstein. “I think we can all stand to remind ourselves that this is the regular season of a club sport and not the NHL playoffs, that players on both sides need their legs healthy to hoof it around campus, backs strong to carry backpacks, and hands in tact to type papers.”
Vandy can now add Tardiff and Loss to an already long list of injuries that includes Delehey (torn meniscus), junior Jack McCallum (dislocated kneecap), freshman Kyle Stachowiak (mononucleosis), and Sclafani (collarbone contusion).
“We made do on Saturday night, delivering our most inspired effort of the season, and we’ll continue to overcome adversity in the remainder of our games over the next two weeks,” said Bernstein. “These guys are a team and that’s what teams do. I’m proud to be a part of the group.”
Rematch Against the Cardinals
This weekend Vandy will host the University of Louisville Cardinals for a two game set at Centennial Sportsplex.Â The games follow last December’s thrilling weekend pair on the road that saw the Commodores eek out a 7-6 OT win and barely notch a 4-4 tie against the ACHA DII club. If those games are any indication of what is to follow this Friday and Saturday, count on an exciting weekend of hockey action in Nashville.
Game times for both are 10:15pm.Â Hope to see you at the rink!