One word, “Wow,” captured what was by all accounts one of the most exciting weekends of the season for the Vanderbilt Commodores Hockey Club.  Following a pair of hard fought, evenly matched games against the University of Louisville Cardinals – a 7-6 OT win on Friday and a 4-4 tie on Saturday – the boys from Nashville were left bruised, battered, and ready for a break from both the classroom and the ice rink.

“All I want to do is go home right now and watch a movie,” said freshman David Crowe during the return trip to campus Saturday evening.  “I’m done.”

Late Night Thrills

The weekend started with a midnight clash against the ACHA DII Cardinals hockey club, a young but talented group that, per their coach, has struggled to stay healthy amidst a down year record-wise.  Heading into the meeting, the Commodores were not sure what to expect as Louisville had yet to play any of the teams on VU’s schedule.

“Looking at their record, we were perhaps more confident than we should have been,” said coach Thomas Bernstein.  “We found out pretty quickly that we were in for a battle.”

Friday and Saturday followed similar scripts.  Vanderbilt would score to go ahead, sometimes by two.  Louisville would claw back, often netting equalizers within seconds of going down on the scoreboard.

The physical play was non-stop from midnight Friday to the last whistle Saturday, headlined by the dominating style of junior defenseman Nathan Tardiff.  Tardiff was a veritable tank on the ice, destroying opponents on defense and barreling through people on offense.  It got to the point where the Cardinals actively chose to tone down their otherwise aggressive style of play in the interest of game strategy.

“Nathan would drop them and they’d turn the puck over, or they’d try to hit him and they’d bounce right off of his shoulders,” described Bernstein.  “The guy was just unbelievable, it was like watching Scott Stevens circa the 1995 Devils out there.”

The other thread that remained constant throughout the weekend was the play of Louisville’s goaltender.  The netminder stopped nearly everything, and when he did not the post and crossbar took care of the rest.  The Commodores hit 8 posts and a crossbar over the two games.

“We just couldn’t couldn’t get the puck to find the right spots,” said freshmen winger Jack Delehey.  “That guy was unbelievable in net plus we just didn’t have any luck.  Pretty frustrating.”

Zauderer The Killerer

Delehey wasn’t entirely correct with his assessment of the club’s luck when, after skating to a 6-6 tie in regulation on Friday night, freshman Jordan Zauderer pinched in from the left point, circled around the net, and wrapped in a sudden death winner with 23.6 seconds left in the extra session.  The scene that followed was equal parts joy and relief as the Commodores launched out of the bench to meet the night’s hero, thankful to avoid a shootout.

Zauderer followed that performance with a different type of dagger on Saturday, this time in the form of a mammoth hip check in front of the Commodores bench.  Midway through the third period, Zauderer sized up one of the bigger guys on Louisville and went in for the defensive stop.  Next thing the team knew, the 140135-lb. freshman had put the Cardinal player completely in the Vanderbilt bench, back first.

“I looked down and thought he was dead,” said Bernstein.  Thankfully, the player’s ego was more injured than his body and everyone skated away unharmed.

A Tie?

Unfortunately and fortunately for the ‘Dores, Saturday’s game ended in a 4-4 tie after regulation which, according to ACHA rules, should never happen. It turns out that the rink moved the game’s 6pm start time to 5:30pm (to accommodate a free skate) and failed to inform either team so there was no time for the requisite shootout.  The word “fortunately” is used because a shootout would have inevitably tilted the game in favor of Louisville and its brick wall of a goaltender.

Said sophomore goalie Mackie Anderson, who performed admirably in net following a three month game layoff, “Honestly, I’m not sure we would have pulled out the W.”

The Weekend Scoresheet

The weekend’s scoring leaders included senior Matt Maggiore who, with 2 goals and an assist, played his most inspired hockey of the season.  The Bunny contributed 3 goals and 2 assists while junior Scotty McLaughlin contributed a goal and 3 assists.  Six others, including sophomore Chris Sperandio, freshman Kyle Stachowiak, junior Tom Trepanier, Tardiff, and Zauderer, each scored a goal.

With that, the book is now closed on a great semester which saw the Commodores hold onto the final spot in the ACHA Men’s DIII South Top 15 Rankings.  Thanks to all for your support of the club and please be sure to join us back in Nashville next semester as we round out the season with seven straight home games.

From your friends at VU Hockey, take care and please have a merry Christmas, a wonderful holiday season, a happy new year in 2011!

* Photos from the weekend are posted on the Photos page.

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