The Tennessee Ice Vols split their final home games of the season in a testy series with Clemson, defeating the Tigers 4-2 Friday, and losing 9-4 Saturday.
The series reached a tipping point in the third period of Saturday’s game when tempers flared, resulting in a game total of 59 penalty minutes– 27 for the Ice Vols and 32 for Clemson.
Friday, the Ice Vols dominant first period was the difference. After Clemson scored less than two minutes into the game, Tennessee added three goals to take a 3-1 lead. Chris Weilandt tallied the deciding goal and added another in the third period.
Saturday, Weilandt scored to open the game, but Clemson took over from there. Led by Zander Buttress’ hat trick, the Tigers scored eight goals throughout the rest of the first period and the second period to earn the 9-4 win.
Despite being routed in the last game of the series, Ice Bears head coach Cole Burkhalter has noticed his young team improving.
“We have a young group of guys, so it’s a learning experience for all of us,” Burkhalter said. “But, the last couple of weekends have been good for us. We’ve started to play a full 60 minutes of hockey, so we’re getting there.”
The Ice Vols have one of their toughest tests next weekend against in-state rival Vanderbilt, who has had their way against the Ice Vols over the past few seasons. Burkhalter knows his team will face a difficult challenge at the Ford Ice Center next weekend and will have to show even more consistency.
“When we want to play, we’re a really good team, but we have some moments in games where we kind of slip up, and that’s what cost us a game here and there,” Burkhalter said.
Tennessee and Vandy play Friday at 7:45 p.m. and Saturday at 3:45 p.m.