October 2, 2010 | Lynchburg, VA
The Liberty Flames hockey team fell to a record of 3-3-1 after losing its games against Davenport University on Friday and Saturday.
The Panthers of Davenport University were well prepared to face the Flames this weekend. "They're a very good team. They're a top five team for sure," Flames leading scorer Brent Boschman said. "They've got a great power play and it showed by their multiple power play goals."
According to the weekend preview on Davenport's Official Athletics Site, Davenport's game plan consisted of five things: take few penalties, slow the Flames' offense, score early to quiet the fans, test the goalie with many shots and play solid defense. Over the course of the weekend, Davenport was able to accomplish almost all of its goals.
Davenport scored early in the first period Friday, starting off the weekend as planned. Liberty remained down by one until Boschman scored with 30 seconds left in the period. Liberty took the lead at 17 minutes, 58 seconds in the second period, but just 48 seconds later Davenport scored a power-play goal. Liberty's Andrew McCombe was able to score on a power play chance shortly after to gain the lead once more. McCombe then added a short-handed tally with 7:06 left in the second period after a tripping call against Boschman.
"We were in our own end and Jackson Kuhn made a great play to get the puck out and it just kind of bounced to me and I was on a breakaway and I just shot under [the Davenport goalie's] glove," freshman forward McCombe said.
Boschman's penalty hadn't quite expired before Davenport's Brit Ouellette was able to put the puck in the net. Boschman took two more penalties for slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct at 5:51 that proved to be costly for Liberty. Ouellette scored on the power play again to make the game a 4-4 tie going into the third period.
Liberty was unable to recover from that point, allowing three more Davenport goals in the third period. The final score was 7-4.
"The penalties just killed us. There's nothing else to it," Boschman said.
Saturday's game started out much the same way with an early short-handed Davenport goal from Jonathan Juliano fulfilling Davenport's plans. The next goal was scored by Davenport's Justin Smith at the beginning of the second period. Bobby Collar scored next to give Davenport a 3-0 lead.
Liberty's Greg Jensen scored towards the end of the second period, keeping his team in the game.
In the third period, Tyler Forbes scored twice for Davenport, once at even strength and once on the power play. With his team down by four goals, Liberty's Jonathan Chung scored at 11:52 to give his team a chance to come back. Liberty was unable to score again, though.
Davenport finished their second win with a goal by Trevor Cope, making the final score 6-2.
Though Davenport's team was able to win both games, it was not able to fulfill all of its goals. Davenport was unable to avoid the penalty box. Taking seven penalties Friday and seven more Saturday, the team took just two fewer penalties than Liberty's.
Davenport's plan to have many shots on goal, however, was a definite success. The team racked up 56 shots Friday night and 37 Saturday, forcing Liberty goaltender Blair Bennett to face a total of 93 shots.
"They definitely kept me busy. They're fast. (They) moved the puck around well," Bennett said.
Liberty's offense was effectively slowed by Davenport as well. Davenport's defense made it difficult for Liberty's team to get the puck into its offensive zone and to get shots through to the net. Liberty had 17 shots on goal Friday and 27 Saturday for a total of 44, less than half of the total shots the team allowed. "(The main problem was) discipline in Friday's game. (We took) too many penalties. Saturday, (we were) not smart in our own end," junior forward Mackenzie Bauman said.
Liberty's play was not all bad. "There were bits and pieces of each game that were good," Bauman said.
The players agree about what the team needs to work on.
"We just need to get more shots. We need to shoot the puck more," McCombe said.
The sentiment was echoed by Bauman and Bennett, who expressed the need for the team to score more goals.
The fact that many of Liberty's players are injured does not help their productivity. Greg Jensen returned this weekend after missing three games, but Eric Reynolds and Colton Crossley were unable to play. Junior forward Luke Aitken is unable to play at all this season after tearing his ACL and meniscus.
Despite a few challenges, Liberty's team continues to improve.
"I think we played hard. I mean, we're definitely working hard,"McCombe said. "We're learning to work together as a team. We're noticing improvements. We get better every day."
The next opportunity to observe the team's improvements will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 in the LaHaye Ice Center when the Flames take on Oakland University .
Callie Cagwin - Sports Reporter