The University of Tennessee club hockey team will wrap up the 2010-11 season this Saturday against Vanderbilt University, starting a new tradition on a special stage.
The game between Tennessee and Vanderbilt has been declared as the inaugural I-40 Faceoff. It will be held March 26 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. and will take place at 1:00 p.m. CT.
“We are going to get to skate where the greatest players in the world have skated,” said Evan Marroni, a senior Ice Vols forward from Franklin, a suburb of Nashville. “It’s like your skating on sacred ice.”
The I-40 Faceoff will be played prior to a NHL Western Conference matchup between the Nashville Predators and the visiting Dallas Stars scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Bridgestone Arena is home to the Predators. Admission to the game between Tennessee and Vanderbilt will be free of charge.
“It’s going to be really good to play right before the pro team,” said Scott Andrews, a junior forward for the Ice Vols from Nashville. “We will get to live the pro life for a day.
“A lot of guys on the team are from Nashville too, so it will be really cool to play on that stage in front of our families and friends,” said Andrews.
The Ice Vols, as Tennessee hockey is often referred to, were the inaugural South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference (SECHC) Champion in 2009.
However, the Ice Vols have struggled this season, coming into the final game this weekend at 8-18-1 (3-7-0 SECHC). The Ice Vols were a No. 4 seed in the conference tournament and were knocked out in the first round last month.
Over the last two seasons, Tennessee and Vanderbilt have played twice. Last season in Knoxville, Tennessee beat the Commodores 9-4. The prior year, Tennessee and Vanderbilt started the season in Nashville with the Ice Vols taking that game as well, 15-4.
Vanderbilt was on conference probation this season, but still managed to improve greatly under first-year coach Thomas Bernstein. The Commodores are 14-3-1 overall and while games against SECHC opponents did not count toward the conference standings, they did play eight games, going 5-3-0.
With the game being the start of a new era between the two teams, it will also be the end of an era at Tennessee. Tennessee head coach Steve Durrigan is retiring after the game as the season will have come to an end.
“We’re not taking it lightly,” said Andrews. “Vanderbilt has said they are ready to play hard. It is coach’s last game and he has done so much for this program. There wouldn’t be a better way to send him out than with a victory in a game like this.”
Tennessee and Vanderbilt play in Division III of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) and are members of the SECHC. ACHA hockey is non-scholarship hockey. Most teams require their players to pay dues to play, as they don’t generate enough revenue to carry a full season.
The SECHC is finishing up its third season as the conference of 11 schools. All 11 schools are a part of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) on NCAA athletics. Kentucky is the only SEC school that does not have a team in the SECHC.