DI Flames seek to end regular season on upswing vs. WVU
February 13, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Entering its final series of the regular season, Liberty University's Division I men's hockey team will look to snap a three-game skid when it hosts West Virginia this weekend at the LaHaye Ice Center.
On Jan. 18 and 19, the Flames dominated the Mountaineers in back-to-back games played at a neutral site in South Charleston, W.Va., winning by 6-1 and 4-1 scores.
But Liberty lost a couple key players to injury on that road trip and West Virginia has been on a tear since then, winning seven in a row and receiving votes in the ACHA DI poll for the first time this week since the seventh poll was released on Nov. 9.
The Flames will find out on Wednesday night where they are ranked in the final ACHA DI poll and where they will be seeded for the March 1-6 national tournament hosted by Robert Morris Illinois in Chicago.
Liberty is currently ranked No. 10, which is where it ended last season before losing to Adrian — the No. 1-ranked team for the third week in a row — in the first round of the ACHA DI national tournament. The Flames seek to gain some momentum for this year's main event and peak for a rush to its first-ever title with another sweep of the Mountaineers.
"We put ourselves in a position where, even having to battle through some losses and some tough stuff at the end, it's OK because once you get to the national tournament … it's a journey," Liberty assistant coach Jeff Boettger said after Saturday's 9-3 loss to Oakland. "All year long, we've played hard and we've played well. We have a real good team. It's now putting it together with the guys who are still in the lineup."
Scouting Preview, Games 37-38: West Virginia (13-14-1) vs. No. 10 Liberty University (21-13-2), Friday, Feb. 15, and Saturday, Feb. 16, (7 p.m.) at the LaHaye Ice Center.
Liberty Scouting Report: Senior forwards Brent Boschman and team captain Andrew McCombe netted hat tricks on successive nights when the Flames swept the Mountaineers in West Virginia. Rick Turner still leads Liberty and ranks fourth among ACHA DI players in scoring with 67 points on the season, just two points out of second place. His 38 goals is third most in the league while his seven power-play goals and three game-winning goals lead the team. Ryley Egan is second on the Flames with 39 points (15 goals, 24 assists) and Lindsay LeBlanc (17 goals, 21 assists, 38 points), who sat out both games at West Virginia due to a bout with the flu, ranks third.
In goal, Clayton Brown is Liberty's anchorman with two shutouts and an 11-8-1 record in 1,131 minutes this season. He has a 3.77 goals-against average and has stopped 88 percent of opponents' shots.
West Virginia Scouting Report: The Mountaineers (13-14-1) have won seven games in a row since being swept by Liberty last month. Zack LaDuke netted two goals and distributed three assists in a 7-5 victory at Robert Morris (Pa.) on Feb. 1. Christian Lewton had the game-winning goal in a 4-3 victory at Duquesne on Jan. 27 and scored two goals with one assist in Sunday's 8-1 rout at Youngstown State to move into the team points lead with 29 (16 goals, 13 assists).
Eric Schaetzle has been by far the most effective netminder for the Mountaineers with a 2.61 GAA and 7-5-1 record, including two shutouts, in 14 starts, saving 91 percent of shots on goal.
All-Time Series: Liberty is 4-0 against West Virginia after its two triumphs in South Charleston, W.Va., last month, the teams' first meeting in more than six seasons.
Coaches: Kirk Handy is in his 13th season as the Flames' head coach, with an overall record of 276-121-14. Zach Eckman is in his first season as West Virginia's head coach after playing forward for the Mountaineers from 2005 through 2009. He has West Virginia back near the .500 mark after it went 27-14 and reached the second round of the ACHA DI national tournament last season, the last under Zach Sonnefeld.