Focused Flames beat Arizona in rematch
January 26, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's Division I men's hockey team regained its focus and got the spark head coach Kirk Handy was looking for in the opening minute of Saturday night's second game against Arizona, a 5-2 victory at the LaHaye Ice Center.
Brent Boschman opened the scoring just a minute into the rematch. He received a feed along the boards from Matt Sherry in the right corner, skated in on Arizona goalie Steven Sisler and pushed the puck through the five hole for an early 1-0 edge.
"Sherry just rimmed it and I just threw it on net and it was just sitting on the goal line and I just went and banged it in," Boschman said. "That was the key, coming out at the start. We've been coming out slow so that was good to get an early goal. That set the tone for the rest of the game."
The Wildcats, who won Friday's opener 4-2, had one equalizing goal disallowed by a high-sticking call in the crease before capitalizing 13 seconds into a 5-on-3 man advantage just under the six-minute mark. AU leading scorer Brian Slugocki, who ranks second in the ACHA with 11 power-play goals, rifled a shot into the left side of the net off a cross-ice assist from Ansel Ivens-Anderson, tying it at 1-1.
It didn't take long for the Flames to re-ignite their attack, netting three goals in a span of five minutes midway through the second period to seize a commanding 4-1 lead.
"The difference between last night and tonight was just the will to compete, the will to win puck races and battles on the puck and on the boards and the desire to kind of outwork them," Liberty assistant coach Jeff Boettger said.
Sherry struck first at the 13:34 mark, taking a short pass from Rick Turner and firing a straight-on slap shot too hot for Sisler to handle. Then, seconds after Arizona killed a high-sticking penalty by Michael Ferreira, Turner got on the scoreboard by ripping his second slapshot in less than a minute, this time off assists from Jackson Kuhn and Steve Bellew.
"Rick's our most offensively talented player," Boschman said of Turner, who ranks second in the ACHA with 36 goals. "He's been putting the puck in the back of the net a lot. I hope he keeps it up."
That's how the score remained for nearly 22 minutes before the two teams traded goals late in the third period. Garcia got his second score off an assist from Christian Garland on a counterattack, unleashing a laser from just inside the blue line that beat Sisler top-shelf.
"All four lines were playing their role and that always leads to success for us," Boschman said. "It's good to have everyone contributing offensively."
Garcia, a freshman, moved into fourth on the team with 13 goals on the season, one behind Ryley Egan and Linday LeBlanc.
Boettger said the Flames defense has improved its transitional play, generating more opportunities for Liberty's high-powered attack.
"With our offense, it's just a matter of are we able to control our zone," he said. "That's been a focus the last couple of weeks. We're getting better. You can see it progressing, taking care of our end and that gives us opportunities down there."
The Flames (20-9-2) outshot the 15-16 Wildcats by a 36-32 margin and Liberty sophomore Clayton Brown made 30 saves.
"We converted tonight and also we had a goalie who played real well," Boettger said, "He really held us in in the first part of the game which allowed us to get our opportunities down on their end."
Brown has earned playing time from Blair Bennett lately, and they're nearly interchangeable now.
"Both of those guys are pushing each other to be the best that they can," Boettger said. "There's been a lot of games where, whether it's Clayton or it's Blair in the pipes, they're holding us in and they're giving us opportunities to win."
Liberty, winners of six of seven and 11 of its last 14 games, including a shootout loss at then-No. 1 Arizona State, travels to defending ACHA national tournament champion Delaware, currently ranked 14th, for two games next weekend before closing out the regular season with home rematches against Oakland and West Virginia the following two weekends.