Club Sports News

Liberty looks for revenge against reigning champs

January 30, 2013  |  Lynchburg, Va. 

Liberty University forward Andrew McCombe battles for the puck between Blue Hens defenders during one of the Flames' two losses to Delaware at the LaHaye Ice Center in November.

Since beating Delaware twice at home in 2009, Liberty University's men's Division I hockey team has lost nine of the past 10 meetings against the Blue Hens, including six straight.

"Since my (sophomore) year, we haven't won, so this is huge for us," senior forward Brent Boschman said. "They always play us tough (but) it's always close games, so hopefully, we can do what it takes to get the wins this time."

Both teams seem to be peaking at the right time, as the end of the regular season draws near. Delaware is seeking to defend its first ACHA national championship while Liberty is aiming for its first.

"They're a team that's hitting their stride right now and we're going to have to be ready," Flames assistant coach Jeff Boettger said.

Scouting Preview, Games 33-34: No. 14 Delaware University (21-8-1) vs. No. 10 Liberty University (20-10-2), Feb. 1 at 9:10 p.m., Feb. 2 at 5:15 p.m. at the Fred Rust Ice Arena in Newark, Del. Both games will be webcast live on the pay-per-view site www.FastHockey.com

Liberty Scouting Report: Liberty bounced back from a 4-2 loss to Arizona on Friday with a 5-2 victory over the Wildcats on Saturday to take three of four games from AU this season. The Flames now have won six of their past seven dating back to a loss at Arizona State, then the No. 1 team in the nation.

Offensively, Liberty has been tough to stop during its recent run of success, but it may face its toughest test against the Blue Hens, who feature SJ Broadt, the reigning ACHA national player of the year, in goal.

Rick Turner, who netted two goals and dished off two assists in the two games against the Wildcats, leads the Flames and ranks third in ACHA Division I in points with 64, also ranking second with 36 goals.

Liberty is blessed with balanced scoring as eight players have scored 20 points or more, including Ryley Egan with 38 (14 G, 24 A), Lindsay LeBlanc with 34 (14 G, 20 A), Luke Baumgarten with 29 (11 G, 18 A), and Andrew McCombe with 24 (11 G, 13 A).

Flames goaltenders Blair Bennett (10-6) and Clayton Brown (10-5-1) have near-identical records and similar save percentages, with Bennett stopping 90 percent of opponents' shots and Brown repelling 89 percent. Bennett also holds a slight edge in goals against average (3.06-3.34).

Delaware Scouting Report: After a slow start, the defending national champion Blue Hens have gone 17-2, sparked by their sweep of the Flames on Nov. 9 and 10. Since returning from a broken foot and making his season debut in the second game at Liberty, Broadt, who played through the injury in last year's national tournament, is 9-0 with a 1.56 goals against average — the third lowest among ACHA Division I goalies with five or more wins — and a save percentage of 95, second-highest in Division I.

Mark Zeszut is Delaware's leading scorer with 15 goals — including four game-winners to tie for fifth in Division I — and 32 assists (47 points). He is followed closely by Christopher Volonnino who leads the Blue Hens with 24 goals — including nine on power plays to tie for third most in DI — and has distributed 15 assists for 39 points. Vincent Pontrello is Delaware's second-leading assist man with 20.

All-Time Series: The Blue Hens lead the series against Liberty 10-5-1, including 2-1 and 6-3 victories at the LaHaye Ice Center on Nov. 9 and 10. Last season, Delaware won all four meetings against the Flames, by 3-0 and 4-2 scores in Nov. 11-12, 2011, at Liberty and 7-1 and 4-3 margins Feb. 3-4, 2012, in Delaware. The Flames' last win came at home on Feb. 5, 2011, a 3-1 triumph one night after suffering an 8-0 setback to the Blue Hens.

Coaches: Flames Head Coach Kirk Handy, in his 13th season at Liberty's helm, has an overall record of 275-118-14. M.F. Schurman is in his fourth season as Delaware's head coach and has an overall record of 87-19-3.

 

By Ted Allen/Staff Writer

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