The I-40 Faceoff returned to the Bridgestone Arena on Sunday afternoon after a hiatus during the 2012-13 season. The Vanderbilt Commodores welcomed the Tennessee Ice Vols for their third meeting in four years in Smashville just a few hours before the Nashville Predators hosted the Washington Capitals.

Mr. C during warmups

Mr. C. during warm ups

When the teams took the ice for warm ups, the Vandy fans in attendance had quite a surprise. Mr. C., the Vandy mascot, was skating with the team. With stick in hand, Mr. C. warmed up with the team and even put a puck past junior goalie, Andrew Keen, in a one-on-one drill.

When Mr. C. left the ice, it was all business for the two SECHC East teams. Within the first few minutes of the game, you could see that both teams were rusty but wanted to play a physical game. The Ice Vols jumped out to an early lead when senior Kris Debenedictis scored at 9:53 in the first. Just 26 seconds later, Vandy freshman John Longman tied the game with an unassisted goal. The Dores’ junior, Daniel Hogue, added another goal to give Vandy a 2-1 lead at the first intermission.

Vanderbilt increased their lead when Hogue scored again at 6:06 of the second. Less than two minutes later, senior Captain Anthony Bilotta scored his first of the game. Sophomore Jack Gibbons added a powerplay goal at 11:40 and Vanderbilt took a 5-1 lead into the third.

Early in the final period, Vandy freshman Stephen Wei took a slashing penalty and Ice Vols took advantage of the power play and scored just twelve seconds later. As the third period progressed, the physical game became very chippy. With just 3:30 left in the game, tempers flared and the game was delayed while the referees doled out 31 penalty minutes, which left Vandy on the penalty kill. Bilotta didn’t let the one man disadvantage phase him as he scored the short-handed goal just 45 seconds later.

The Dores had one mission when they stepped on the ice Sunday afternoon and that was to keep the Culpepper Jefferson Memorial Trophy in Nashville. The “Cullie” has never made the trip to Knoxville, and with a 6-2 victory, Vandy will keep it until the two teams meet again at the next I-40 Faceoff.

The I 40 Victors

The I 40 Victors
Photo courtesy of @VandyIceHockey