It was a weekend of milestones for club hockey coach V.J. Stanley. On Friday night, he coached his 350th game as the head coach of the team and on Saturday night at Cornell University he won his 200th game.
Stanley said he was so pleased with his team’s hard work beating Cornell that he had forgotten until his players reminded him in the locker room after the game that it was his 200th win.
Stanley gave the credit for his success to his team. “I’ve just been so very fortunate to be able to coach such great players at such a great school,” Stanley said. “The kids are what makes it special.”
Stanley, who began coaching at UR in 1984, has amassed a 200-125-26 record. In his 18 years, his teams have won nine league championships.
Senior center and team captain Michael Evans said he was proud to be a part of Stanley’s accomplishment.
“After playing here for four years, I feel honored to be a part of V.J.’s 200th win,” Evans said. “It really means a lot to me.”
Associate Director of Athletics Jane Possee recognized the signifigence of Stanley’s accomplishment.
“Most individuals who are in the coaching world strive to reach such goals,” She said. “He has always taken pride in forming a strong team which represents the university in a positive and competitive environment.”
The weekend’s games had more significance to Stanley and the team than the milestone. They gave UR a chance to improve its position in this weekend’s Eastern Collegiate Hockey League tournament.
Wins over both Mercy-hurst and Cornell would have given UR a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Stanley said Friday’s game against Mercyhurst would be all about the goaltending, and he was right.
The Yellowjackets lost 11-2 Friday night, but the numbers are deceptive. UR outshot Mercyhurst 35-32 and consistently had more scoring opportunities. Outstanding goaltending by Mercyhurst and suspect net-play by freshmen Matt Gimovsky and San Voigt ultimately did UR in.
Mercyhurst scored five goals of 10 shots in the first period and never looked back, pouring in 11 goals on 31 shots.
However, there were some positives. Offensively, UR dominated the game, putting consistent offensive pressure on Mercyhurst.
“If this was the first round of the playoffs, and we played this well, we’d be satisfied,” Stanley said after Friday’s loss.
Redemption came Saturday night for UR and for Voigt when UR beat Cornell 6-3. This was UR’s first win over Cornell in over two years.
The game turned on a freak play at the end of the first period. With five seconds to go, UR had a faceoff deep in their zone and Cornell pulled their goalie in hopes of one last shot at tying the game at the end of the period.
Evans said he was just trying to win the face-off, get the puck out of the zone and preserve the 1-0 lead going into intermission. He cleared the zone and senior winger Phil Crotty chased it down and put it right in the net before the buzzer.
“That gave us a lot of momentum going into the second,” Evans said.
UR capitalized on that momentum and dominated the second period of the game in Cornell, ripping 16 shots and scoring three goals.
“After the third goal, things just started to snowball,” Stanley said.
It is momentum that Stanley thinks will carry into this weekend’s games.” We’re playing so well,” Stanley said. “I can just see their confidence growing out there on the ice.”
The team will compete this weekend in the ECHL championship tournament starting this weekend. UR will open tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Genesee Valley Park Ice Skating arena playing against fifth seeded Syracuse University. The tournament will continue Friday as second-seeded Mercyhurst will play third-seed Cornell at 4:30 p.m. at GVP. Washington and Jefferson University awaits the winner of UR-Syracuse at 7:30 p.m. The championship game will take place Saturday night.
Stanley likes his team’s chances, but recognizes the uphill battle facing the team.
“Three games in three nights is going to be tough,” he said. “But we’re playing like a championship team and we can play with any of the teams in the tournament.”
Evans agreed with his coach. “I think that with the way we’re playing, Syracuse is going to have to find a way to beat us, and the same goes with Washington and Jefferson,” he said.
Hildebrandt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org