Vanderbilt Starts Slow, Finishes Strong Versus Georgia

The Commodores entered this past weekend riding a five-game winning streak and looked poised to trounce a Georgia squad which had dropped six of its past eight. Apparently no one told the Ice Dogs. They pushed the boys in black and gold to the very brink on Saturday before Vanderbilt prevailed in a shootout and rolled to a 9-2 victory on Sunday.

Saturday afternoon began slowly, and it wasn’t just for Vandy. A miscommunication with the officials led to Ford Ice Center’s Hockey Director Craig MacDonald donning the stripes and managing the game solo on minutes notice until reinforcements arrived in the second period. Perhaps the unusual situation unnerved both teams, as they combined for a scoreless and penalty-less first frame. In the second, John Longman scored two goals and Ryan Doppelheuer added one to give the Commodores what seemed to be a commanding 3-0 lead. A late goal with 21 seconds left pulled Georgia within two as the teams prepared for the third period. Longman would finish off his hat trick in the third, but a series of defensive miscues by Vanderbilt gave Georgia the opportunity to surge back, netting three goals in the period and sending the game to overtime.

The overtime period seemed like it would be over quickly, with Longman and Doppelheuer driving to the net less than a minute into the extra time. However, thanks to a sprawling save by Georgia goaltender Nick Carlotto and two posts rung, the Ice Dogs stayed in the game. The two squads traded chances before the final buzzer sounded, resulting in a tie for ACHA rankings. However, a shootout was still to be held in order to determine SECHC East standings.

“I felt like we had a few opportunities to pull away and we were never really able to do it,” noted captain Greg Kirk. “It is something that we are disappointed by but I’m proud of the team for sticking together and battling through it.”

Longman, Doppelheuer and Jack Gibbons couldn’t score in the shootout for the Dores, but Ryan Kellenberger responded by shutting down Georgia’s shooters and kept Vandy in the game. In the first sudden death round, Coach Thomas Bernstein called on Zach “Silky” Satin, a defenseman known for his slick moves and graceful stride. Satin didn’t disappoint, beating the Georgia netminder to give the Commodores an opportunity to finally seal the victory. Kellenberger stood tall on the final save to salvage an important SEC East point in what was an otherwise disappointing outing for Vanderbilt.

“I go into every game with a general idea of who I’ll look to in the event that we go to a shootout,” explained Bernstein. “Popping out your two top scorers is a no-brainer, but after that you have to work off of what you saw in the game, plus who wants it. Gibby wanted that third try badly and I loved that fire. He deked their goalie out of his pads but got unlucky by hitting the post. I just felt Zach had a really strong game and would deliver for us. Turns out it was a good decision. In a game where I would have liked to have had some decisions back, that was thankfully a good one.”

If there was any concern about the team’s performance on Saturday, it was quickly quelled on Sunday. Longman scored two in the first 40 minutes and Greg Kirk added a blast from the point as the Commodores headed into the third period up 3-1, slightly overshadowed by a controversial call made by the officials which nullified a seemingly good goal by Bobby Mallon. The third period began just as precariously, with Ryan Doppelheuer serving a 10 minute misconduct for arguing the previous call. However, Vanderbilt was determined not to make the same mistakes as the day before. Matt Murphy scored a goal in the first minute and added another while Jack Gibbons, Tucker Rhodes, Doppelheuer and Mallon each added a tally of their own. A late goal by Georgia was not enough as the Commodores dominated, 9-2.

“I think we realized we didn’t play our best game Saturday,” commented John Longman, who became the club’s first ever 30-goal scorer with a five goal weekend, “and we really focused up Sunday and showed what we are capable of. Veteran guys and leaders like Greg Kirk and Ryan Kellenberger really helped us refocus, and it was exactly what we needed with such big games against Tennessee coming up.”

Those games, Friday night at 7:45 PM and Saturday afternoon at 3:45 PM (both at Ford Ice Center) are crucial to the hopes of clinching a first place berth in the SECHC East, which would set the team up nicely for success in the SECHC Tournament. Follow the Commodores on Facebook (Vanderbilt Club Ice Hockey), Twitter (@VandyIceHockey) and Instagram (@vanderbilt_hockey) as well as right here on the official team website for more news and videos as the team gears up for its exciting regular season finale.

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