Lady Flames clinch semifinal berth with two wins at nationals
March 7, 2013 | Ashburn, Va.
Triumphs in Thursday's first two rounds of pool play punched the ticket for Liberty University's Division I women's hockey team into Saturday's semifinals of the ACHA DI national championships at the Ashburn (Va.) Ice House.
The top-seeded Lady Flames (27-2) opened with a 3-1 victory over No. 8 Michigan in the morning game before eliminating sixth-seeded Rhode Island 6-0.
Liberty faces third-seeded Minnesota, which beat the Rams 4-0 in their first-round game, in Friday's final round of pool play starting at 1 p.m. Tune into a webcast of the game live on pay-per-view.
The Lady Flames split a pair of games against Minnesota at Wisconsin in November. With a third win, Liberty will win its pool and be seeded first for Saturday's semifinals, when it would face the lower seed out of the opposite pool at 11 a.m. With a loss, it would play the higher seed at 11:15 p.m.
Against the Rams (19-7), the Lady Flames scored twice in the first period and four times in the third to put their second win on ice.
Carly Peleshok, netted the first goal nearly 10 minutes into the action, flicking the follow of a shot by Laura Del Monte past Rhode Island goalie Kayla DiLorenzo while flipping over top of her.
Del Monte finished Liberty's second score in similar fashion, only reverse order, on a putback deep in the left crease of a shot by Peleshok from the top of the right circle.
"To get one halfway through the period and one at the end of the period was huge for us, to go into the intermission with a two-goal lead," Liberty assistant coach Justin Forth said.
That's how the score remained for more than 35 minutes before the Lady Flames caught fire in the final 12 minutes of the third period. Nikki McCombe, stationed in the left crease, ended the scoring drought by cleaning up a shot from the top of the right circle by Courtney Fischer off a feed from Amanda Grainger from the right corner. Then, less than 30 seconds later, Sarah Stevenson sent an assist across the goal mouth from the right corner that Keeley Beisinger put away from in the left side of the goal mouth, extending the advantage to 4-0 with 11:49 to go.
Three minutes later, after Jenny MacArthur won a faceoff in the neutral zone, senior captain Stacey McCombe skated between defenders and lifted a left-handed wrist shot into the top left shelf. Grainger capped the scoring by slipping a rebound of a Beisinger shot beneath DiLorenzo from in the right crease.
"We had a lot of offensive pressure, and generated a lot of good high-scoring opportunities," Forth said. "Rhode Island played really well through the first two periods, but toward the end of the third, we kept putting the pressure on and we finally potted a few."
He said the constant pressure created cracks in the Rams' defense before the floodgates opened wide. "Quality shots are key, but it's often good just to get lots of traffic and crash the net, because if you put the puck on net, a lot of good things happen," Forth said.
For the game, the Lady Flames outshot the Rams by a 40-25 margin.
Liberty sophomore Chantal Lischynski, who played in last year's nationals before recently returning from a torn ACL, posted the shutout in goal, making 25 saves.
That's the same number of saves fellow sophomore Samantha Rupp had in the opener against Michigan, when the Lady Flames outshot the Wolverines 31-26.
Grainger got Liberty on the scoreboard against Michigan (18-6-4) midway through the first period off an assist from Nikki McCombe before the Wolverines knotted it at 1-1 midway through the second.
"They got their goal on a 5-on-3," Forth said. "They had a two-man advantage because we got in some penalty trouble."
Five mintues later, Stacey McCombe put the Lady Flames back on top to stay with a power-play goal assisted by Grainger and Stevenson. Liberty clung to a 2-1 lead until Peleshok scored the third goal, an empty-netter in the final 30 seconds assisted by Del Monte and Carrie Jickling.
"We had a lot of chances," Forth said. "They did a good job defensively keeping us to the outside."
In other action on Friday, second-seeded Massachusetts edged No. 7 Michigan State 3-2, fourth-seeded Robert Morris Illinois nipped fifth-seeded defending champion Northeastern 2-1, and Minnesota routed Michigan, 6-1.