The Vanderbilt Commodores ice hockey club’s opening weekend of the 2012/13 season had a little bit of everything for players, fans, and community members alike. Leading up to, through, and following the weekend, you had wins (and losses) for both teams, high drama for fans, rugged hockey action for the club’s rookies, and a healthy cash injection into the wallets of the Tennessee and Mississippi state police departments. More on that in a moment.
Kicking Off 2012/13 with a “W”
The Ice ‘Dores, or “Arctic Anchors” as freshman defenseman Michael Hite has taken to calling his new team, fired into the weekend with a strong 5-2 win against a talented Ole Miss club that had beaten Vanderbilt four straight times over the previous two seasons heading into the contest.
Sophomore goalie Andrew Keen led the way with 47 saves on Friday in a game that saw the ‘Dores team capitalize on its handful of opportunities, particularly on the powerplay, and the Rebels take a boatload of penalties. Keen, your average mild-mannered Vandy student by day, transformed Clark Kent-style into his new alter ego “The Iceman” before the eyes of nearly 700 fans in attendance.
“I had fun,” said Keen in one of his more energetic, chatty moods following his stellar performance. “It was good.”
Other stars to shine under the bright lights of the SECHC stage were freshman Jack Gibbons and sophomore Daniel Hogue who joined Kyle McCann on the team’s first line. Gibbons notched the team’s first goal of the game by wheeling and rifling a laser top shelf from just beyond the red line at center ice.
“I won’t say I planned to do that,” recalls Gibbons, “but let’s just say I aimed to do that.”
Not to be outdone, “Hoagie” joined in the scoring action with a workman like tally that was more brawn than finesse, more positioning than sauce/snipe/cele. McCann also scored, evening out the goal total across the line to avert any potential hurt feelings or questions about positions in the starting line-up.
Said Hogue, “Us young guns, we’re excited to dethrone the two-time Vanderbilt hockey scoring champ. I’d be more reserved about our intentions, but as we’ve learned in my Microeconomics class it’s a good thing to align the incentives of the individual with the goals of the organization.” Motioning to his chest with both thumbs, Hogue concluded, “So, it’ll be cheddar, dangle, cele for this guy for the rest of the year.”
The highlight of the game was on the defensive end where the Commodores held the Rebels to a single shot during a two and a half minute 5-on-3 power play that felt far longer to the VU players and coaches. Freshman Chad Wyatt and sophomore Zak Karlinski logged valuable ice time on the penalty kill, as did senior Scooter McLaughlin and junior Alan Leeser.
Celebrating in Style
The team basked in the glory of its first victory by doing what most college kids do on a Friday night, hockey team or otherwise: they grabbed a 2am breakfast. The spot? An Olive Branch, Mississippi, favorite – the International House of Pancakes.
Bent on feeding the beast that is his 155-pound frame, junior winger Evan “Pennies” Sclafani set about to lead by example in terms of eating prowess. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, waffles, hash browns, and a strawberry shake – it was a meal fit for a king but perhaps not one fit for a guy due to play another hockey game in less than 14 hours.
Questioning Pennies’s motivations for gorging his face so heavily, Coach Bernstein barked from the far end of the table, “Evan, are you serious?”
Instantly, Sclafani replied, “Coach, it’s simple – you go big, then you go bigger.” Applause erupted across the table along with Coach Bernstein’s pride in the junior’s response.
“‘Go big, then bigger,’ is one of our core values as an organization,” explained Bernstein, “and to hear Evan quote it back to me mid-waffle at 2:30am in the middle-of-nowhere Mississippi in front of 15 teammates, well … it may have been the crowning achievement of my short coaching career.”
A Little Less Hop After IHOP
Saturday’s game had a distinctly different personality than its predecessor. There were fewer chirps and penalties, at least in the first two periods, and the ‘Dores seemed to be just a hair off on their passes and timing. Still, they boasted a 2-1 lead halfway through the second period.
“We weren’t clicking,” said assistant coach Jon Holston, “but give them credit, they kept firing away and ended up getting a couple of nice shots on Andrew [Keen].”
The Commodores did not give in easily, however, as a furious push in the second half of the third period led to a goal by Eliot Rosenfield that cut the lead to 4-3. Rosenfield, who made his season debut in the loss, seemed to have a bit more bounce in his step in the third versus the other skaters on the ice, likely because he missed the previous night’s IHOP run in favor of a late night dip in one of Nashville’s local swimming holes.
“It wasn’t polar-bear-club cold,” recalled Rosenfield, “but it was certainly invigorating, a great way to get pumped up for Saturday’s game. It may have to become my new pre-game ritual!”
Alas, it would be too little, too late, as the team’s frantic press at the end, highlighted by a near tip-in by junior Jordan Zauderer with 12 seconds remaining in game, fell short. Final score – Ole Miss 4, Vanderbilt 3.
Not the Only Loss …
Saturday’s final was not the only loss that the Vanderbilt club endured during its first road trip of the young season. The boys also took a hit to the bank account in the form of two speeding tickets, one by sophomore Greg Kirk on the way down and the other by senior Casey Schelble on the way back.
Said Kirk, “There was no way I was going that fast, just no way.”
Said Schelble, “There was no way I was going that fast, just no way.”
Things could have been worse for the Frozen ‘Dores. Following Friday night’s game, a four-car caravan anxious to arrive at its evening abode (the Best Western) uniformly, and in succession, ran a blinking red four-way stop sign, directly in front of a parked police officer. Following the dispatch of five police cruisers and eight officers, the boys thankfully all received warnings instead of tickets, an early season miracle as far as the boys were concerned.
Back on the Road
The club will look to stay above .500 (and below police radars) as it travels to Atlanta this weekend to play another SECHC rival the University of Florida Gators. The games, slated for 10:15pm ET on Saturday and 4:30pm ET on Sunday, will be played at the Duluth Ice Forum in Duluth, Georgia. As always, we look forward to inviting anyone suffering from Lockout-itis to join us for a great weekend!
* Special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Londoff and Mr. Wyatt for making the trip to Memphis from St. Louis, MO, and Lafayette, LA, respectively. We hope to see you again soon!