Liberty gets extremely balanced production to beat Bobcats
October 4, 2013 | Athens, Ohio
Seven goals from seven players.
No, it's not a new musical to hit Broadway, but the new mode of operation for Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team since graduating high scorers Rick Turner and Brent Boschman off last year's team.
"Scoring by committee," as head coach Kirk Handy calls it, with balanced production across the board and complete team efforts on the ice, has led to a successful start for the Flames and Friday night's 7-6 victory over Ohio University at the Bird Ice Arena was a perfect example.
In a rematch of last year's ACHA Division I national tournament second-round game, the Flames (6-0) turned the tables on the Bobcats (2-1-1) and evened the series at two games apiece, seven months after falling 7-4 in the teams' third and final meeting last season in Chicago.
"We had contributions from all over the lineup," Handy said, noting the Flames got assists from six players, including three by sophomore defenseman Steven Bellew and two each from Jackson Kuhn and Tyson Street. "(Danny) Logan's line played really well and our top three lines, each one of them had two goals."
"They got us everywhere in the offensive zone," Ohio first-year coach Jonathan Sheridan added. "(Liberty is) a fun team to play and they play hard."
With just under five minutes remaining in regulation, Ryley Egan scored the game-winner off assists from Street and Robert Ward to break a tie for the sixth time in the game, the fifth time in the Flames' favor.
"He just threw it on net from a bad angle," Handy said. "We were just trying to get pucks on net."
Caleb Grow broke the scoring ice just over two minutes after the opening faceoff, assisted by fellow senior defenseman Kuhn.
After Logan tied the game at 2-2 off assists from Bellew and Kuhn, Lindsay LeBlanc netted Liberty's third goal unassisted and Charles Williams lifted the Flames back to a 4-3 lead off assists from Kuhn and Bram Erickson with 3:50 left in the second.
Back-to back goals by Andrew McCombe, late in the second period, and Ward, six minutes into the third, lifted Liberty to a 6-4 advantage before the Bobcats tied it with two goals in the next eight minutes.
Liberty freshman goalie Matt Pinel, who had allowed 10 goals in his first four starts for the Flames, gave up six more, but still emerged victorious after stopping a couple late chances by the Bobcats, who pulled their goalie in the closing minute and a half to put themselves on a power play.
Ohio, which hadn't lost at Bird Arena since Dec. 1, 2012, outshot Liberty 37-29 for the game and Pinel made 31 saves on the night. Like Liberty, Ohio got its six goals from six different players.
"Matt Pinel had a great game for us tonight," Handy said. "He made some big, timely saves."
He said the game, which featured two lead changes and non-stop action, hung in the balance for most of the night between the two teams ranked in the top 15 in Friday's second ACHA DI regular-season poll.
"Both teams battled hard tonight," Handy said. "It was really hot in there and the ice conditions weren't great so the game itself was a little sloppy. But it was a good game as far as both teams going at it. We were doing whatever it took to come out with the win. It was a back-and forth game and both teams at certain times looked like they had the upper hand."
Liberty's defense allowed two power-play goals, but clamped down on the Bobcats in the end.
"We stayed pretty composed, though we took a couple penalties we want to eliminate in (Saturday night's rematch)," Handy said. "We know it's going to be another challenge. We're going to regroup and make sure our effort is even better than tonight's. We're going to bring our energy level from the start."
Action resumes at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night, with a live broadcast available on Ohio's website.