The Liberty University men’s hockey team heated up the ice this past weekend in front of record crowds for its last home games of the season. Liberty beat Oakland University 6-5 Friday in a come-from-behind win and again on Saturday 4-3 in a shootout.
Head coach Kirk Handy called the atmosphere inside the LaHaye Ice Center on both nights “electric.”
“It was the best I’ve ever seen it,” he said. “We appreciate all the fan support we had.”
He said the wins were a “fitting end” for the college careers of the seven seniors on the team — the first class to have completed four years of play at the LaHaye Ice Center.
“They had really been one of the classes to help propel our program forward,” Handy said.
With a 28-2-1 record, Liberty heads out on the road Feb. 26 and 27 for its last games of the season at the University of Oklahoma and then it’s on to the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I National Tournament in Chicago March 6-10. LU enters this year’s tournament ranked No. 6. This will be Liberty’s fourth consecutive appearance at the national tournament. The Flames were a national semi-finalist in 2008.
For more on Liberty hockey, go to www.liberty.edu/hockey.
Game one of the two-game series got off to a quick and unfortunate start for Liberty as Oakland scored their first goal just eight seconds into the game. Liberty then battled back and managed to tie the game prior to entering the first intermission, thanks to a goal by Kyle Dodgson. In the second period, Brent Boschman scored a powerplay goal to give LU the lead, which was quickly followed by Dave Semenyna’s 100th career goal scored while wearing the red, white and blue. Down by two, Oakland certainly didn’t give up, and they answered with four straight goals giving them the lead with only 12 minutes to play in the game. Liberty needed to get back into the scoring column, and this occurred after a very unfortunate pass from Oakland’s goaltender. Looking to pass the puck down the ice, the goalie lifted the puck just high enough that it hit Zac Bauman’s helmet, deflected off, and found its way into the net. Immediately following this goal, Greg Jensen put a huge hit on a Golden Grizzly player that resulted in him going to the penalty box. While shorthanded, Eric Reynolds received a pass from Semenyna, carried the puck into the zone, decked a player and lifted a back hand shot top shelf to tie the game at five goals apiece. So with the game tied with just four minutes to go, Liberty wanted to find a way to score to avenge both of their losses they suffered against Oakland back in November. On the powerplay Brent Boschman stuffed home a rebound that gave the Flames the lead, which they would hold on to for good. Brad Whittingstall started the game in goal but was taken out after allowing five goals on 24 shots. Matt Pedersen came in for the final 12 minutes of the game and stopped all five shots he faced.
Star selections of the game:
1st: Brent Boschman (2 Goals, 1 Assist)
2nd: Dave Semenyna (1 Goal, 2 Assists)
3rd: Kyle Dodgson (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
Fresh off their thrilling comeback win the night before, the Flames looked to complete their home schedule with a sweep of Oakland. This time Liberty scored first thanks to yet another powerplay goal scored by Brent Boschman (his 17th). Unfortunately, Oakland found themselves with a five-minute powerplay at the end of the period and managed to score two goals just 11 seconds apart from the opportunity, thus taking the lead after one period of play. The second period would have gone scoreless if it were not for Dave Semenyna’s unassisted goal in which he got around three Oakland players and beat the OU goalie to tie the game. Eight minutes into the third period, Oakland launched a shot from the blue line that squeaked by Matt Pedersen and into the net. However, Liberty tied the game back up when Greg Jensen scored his 20th goal of the year. The game would eventually go through a scoreless overtime and into a shootout, which the Flames would be experiencing for the first time this season. After the first two shooters of each team failed to score, Matt Pedersen stoned the third Golden Grizzly, which put the game on the stick of Jonathan Chung. By putting it just over the glove of former LU goalie, Matt Toter, Chung had won the game for the Flames.
Star selections of the game:
1st: Matt Pedersen (36 saves)
2nd: Jonathan Chung (Shootout Goal, 1 Assist)
3rd: Greg Jensen (Game Tying Goal, 5 Hits)