On this most ominous of days on the Gregorian calendar, Friday the 13th, the Vanderbilt Commodores Ice Hockey Club will head 441 miles east to open up its season against the University of South Carolina Gamecocks (@CockHockey) and Clemson Tigers (@ClemsonHockey). With three games on the schedule, two versus USC and one versus Clemson, the weekend should prove to be a stout test for the Commodores right out of the gate for the 2013/14 season.
“We barely split with Clemson last year and South Carolina handled us thoroughly, largely on the play of their goalie,” said junior defenseman Greg Kirk who is still sidelined with a foot injury he suffered in April’s I-65 Face-Off. “We’re fired up to play those types of teams though, we want to play games that are competitive.”
Fortunately, the club seems to be maintaining a pretty carefree perspective about the challenge.
“I’m thinking we kick things off with an ‘Old School Goalie Mask Night,'” said goalie Andrew “The Iceman” Keen. “You know, with it being Friday the 13th and all, let’s have a little fun with it.” It’s of course a terrible idea made all the more ill conceived by the fact that Andrew will be the only goalie making the trip (sophomore Riley Macdonald has been sidelined with a concussion and sophomore Bo Korpman will be staying in Nashville to tend to his ROTC responsibilities) but his teammates nevertheless appreciate their goalie keeping things loose.
Young Guns Lead The Way
The upcoming campaign will be marked by a youth movement in the player ranks with 14 new skaters in the lineup.
On the front lines, freshman John Longman (Shaker Heights, Ohio) will look to vie for the title of CSO – “Chief Sniping Officer” – alongside fellow freshmen Ketul Patel (Kendall Park, New Jersey), Stephen Wei (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Calen Leverant (Scottsdale, Arizona), and Tucker Rhodes (Needham, Massachusetts) plus sophomore transfer Matt Neurohr (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).
Rhodes in particular gives new meaning to the expression “young guns” as he’s known to arrive at the rink wearing what one teammate Michael Hite describes as “1980’s Bruce Springsteen-inspired cutoff t-shirts,” a high compliment from the New Jersey native. Rhodes’s confidence should be a big asset for the club heading into the season.
Rookies tasked with securing the defensive zone will be freshmen Andrew Dellapina (Randolph, New Jersey), Nick Honkala (Englewood, Colorado), Ben Gallatin (Acton, Massachusetts), Zach Satin (Potomac, Massachusetts), and Eddie Meyercord (Princeton, New Jersey) along with sophomore transfer Bandar Alsaif (Great Falls, Virginia).
Veterans Providing The Foundation
The team will have a host of veterans returning for 2013/14 to help shepherd the flock of newbies. Senior Jack Delehey, the clubâ€™s president, will start the season on the disabled list following surgery to repair a torn meniscus but will look to deliver a spark upon return in October.
Anthony “The Dean” Bilotta, another senior, will split time at center and defense depending on the situation, opponent, and his mood on game day. Bilotta brings a physical style of play to games that the coaches love and count on.
â€œThere are guys that love to hit, and then there’s Anthony,â€ described Coach Bernstein. â€œHe really loves to hit […] and weâ€™re certainly happy to green-light that passion. Itâ€™s a huge asset for the team especially when the boys are down and need a spark.â€
The club will count on Junior Danny â€œHoagieâ€ Hogue, last yearâ€™s team MVP and leading scorer, and sophomore Jack â€œFan Clubâ€ Gibbons to power the team on the scoreboard. Theyâ€™ll also be counted on to light up Twitter with the wit and charm that fans of the program have grown to love and appreciate over the past year.
Follow The Team
You can follow all of the weekend’s scores and highlights from the comfort of your home, the basement of a fraternity party, or your floor seats at the Blake Shelton concert by staying tuned to Twitter (@VandyIceHockey) and Facebook. On behalf of the players, coaches, and parents, the club thanks all of its fans for their support heading into the new season. Canâ€™t wait to get things kicked off â€¦ ANCHOR DOWN!