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Clemson ice hockey stunned by Vanderbilt in weekend series

Leah Marie Pereira
Clemson club ice hockey president Ben Brucker chases the puck toward the neutral zone during Clemson’s game against South Carolina on Nov. 3, 2023.

The Clemson club ice hockey team fell short to Vanderbilt in its first series of the spring semester last weekend, 6-1 and 3-0. With the losses, the Tigers now sport a 10-6-0 record.

In the 6-1 loss on Friday, neither the Tigers nor the Commodores could find the back of the net in the first half of the opening period. It wasn’t until Clemson took a boarding penalty at 11:10 and put the visitors on the man advantage that Vanderbilt broke the deadlock with a power-play goal. Not even a minute later, the Commodores doubled their score; by the end of the first period, they had established a comfortable 3-0 lead.

The only goal of the middle frame came within the final two minutes when Vanderbilt’s Reese Popkin netted his second of the night to extend his team’s lead to 4-0. The Commodores added another at the 6:45 mark in the third period before Clemson got on the board courtesy of Christian Romeo, as he whizzed the puck through traffic with 7:22 left to play.

In a last-minute attempt to gain some momentum, Clemson pulled goalie Matt Caldwell — who joined the Tigers on the ice during the third period — from between the pipes to add a sixth attacker. Alas, Vanderbilt gained control of the puck and floated it into the empty net with just over a minute remaining to punctuate its 6-1 win.

In the first game, Vanderbilt recorded 22 shots, while Clemson recorded 21.

The following day opened similarly, as neither team found the back of the net in the opening 20 minutes. It wasn’t until 10:08 of the middle frame that the Commodores slipped the puck past Clemson goalie Parker Dietz for a 1-0 lead.

Vanderbilt received insurance from forward Ethan Smiley at 10:05 of the final frame and sealed its 3-0 win eight minutes later with an empty-net goal.

Though both matchups opened with a prolonged 0-0 deadlock, the similarities ended there.

Putting up an impressive 40 shots on goal, Clemson dominated puck possession for the majority of the contest on Saturday. Comparatively, the Commodores recorded 25 shots — just over half that of Clemson. Despite the loss, the Tigers improved from Friday’s matchup, demonstrating nearly identical cohesion to their historic previous semester.

Despite Clemson’s constant intense offensive pressure, Vanderbilt goalie Andrew Shearson — in a heroic performance for his team — found a way to stone all 40 shots from the Tigers.

The Tigers intend to bounce back next weekend as they take on Division I rival Georgia outdoors at the Classic Center Foundry Pavilion in Athens, Georgia.

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Kelly Kaelblein
Kelly Kaelblein, Asst. Sports Editor
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