Last season, the Vanderbilt Commodores gave up five goals in the third period in a 10-5 defeat at the hands of Life University. This year the club was determined to come out of the meeting with a different result. Thanks to a natural four goal hat trick by Ryan Doppelheuer and a four point night by Nick Honkala in his debut on the first line, the Commodores prevailed 10-2.
The game opened quickly, with Calen Leverant scoring fewer than four minutes into the game. Nick Honkala followed up with another goal only 29 seconds later, and a nifty dangle by Jack Gibbons put Vandy up 3-0 less than halfway through the first period. A costly defensive error led to a Life University goal, as Matt Reiman beat Ryan Kellenberger to cut the deficit to two. That was as close as the Running Eagles would make it the rest of the game, as Tucker Rhodes pounced on a loose puck with 26 seconds left in the period and rifled it past the goalie to give the Commodores a three goal lead which would increase as the game continued.
â€œI jumped on the ice and went straight to the puck,â€ said Rhodes, who made plays all over the ice and was given the teamâ€™s celebratory hat which is given to the hardest working player after each victory. â€œMaybe the goalie thought one of his defensemen would get to it, but it was just sitting in front of the net. I picked it up right in front and got a great chance on net. Thankfully it went in and it helped us head into the locker room strong.â€
Although there was only one penalty committed by either team in the first period, the rest of the game featured a combined 24 penalty minutes. After Ryan Doppelheuer scored his first of the game early in the second, defenseman Andrew Dellapina was called for a double minor, giving Life its best opportunity to claw back into the game. Doppelheuer responded by scoring a shorthanded goal and then putting in two more before the period expired to net a natural four goal hat trick as well as give the Commodores a resounding 9-1 lead.
â€œHe had a great game,â€ new linemate Nick Honkala said of Doppelheuer. â€œItâ€™s just unbelievable how easy it is for him to put the puck in the net. I definitely felt some added pressure coming into this game with the way that our first line contributes in terms of scoring, but pretty early on I realized that playing with him and Johnny (Longman) is just so easy.â€
The third period was largely uneventful, as each team scored a goal but did little to change the outcome of the game. Kellenberger stopped 32 of 34 saves in a strong performance, surrendering goals only to a breakaway opportunity as well as a miscommunication in front of the net. Longman scored his second of the game, adding to the first lineâ€™s total of seven for the night.
The game, being the first played at Ford Ice Center since October, kicked off a stretch of games the Commodores will play in their home rink. Next weekend the club plays Eastern Kentucky at 7:45 PM on Friday and 2:00 PM on Saturday before finishing up the regular season with four games against SEC East opponents Georgia and rival Tennessee.