Liberty rallies twice, overcomes Warriors in third period
October 25, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Back-to-back goals by forwards crashing through the left crease in the second minute of the third period helped lift Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team from a 2-1 deficit to a 4-2 victory over ACHA newcomer Rochester College, Friday night at the LaHaye Ice Center.
Freshman forward Brandon Mistal cleaned up a rebound of shots by forwards Charles Williams and Lindsay LeBlanc as he fell to the ice near the left post just a minute and a half into the final stanza. Thirty-five seconds later, before the announcer could credit the tying score and assists, Danny Logan started a fast break up the left wing and later sent a short pass across the crease to Kyle Garcia, who put away the game-winner from point-blank range.
"We definitely had to have a good start in that third period because they had a lot of the momentum, so we needed to get that first one quick," said Mistal, who later cashed in for an insurance goal off second assists from LeBlanc and Williams in the same spot in the final minute and a half. "LeBlanc and Williams were working on the power play and it was just a quick little play and it popped out so I had an open net there."
Missing four players who were serving one-game suspensions following last Saturday's game against Davenport, the Flames were forced to experiment with their lines before finally finding some chemistry.
"We shuffled the lines a little, just trying to shake things up," Liberty head coach Kirk Handy said. "It was a different team in the third period. It was almost like we were waiting for the guys who were suspended to show up. We scrambled the lines a little bit and woke the guys up and we were very proud of the way they responded."
The Flames called up two players from their Division III team, senior forward Brandon Cockburn, who also played against Wake Forest in the DIII game that followed, and freshman goalie Zach Potter, who backed up senior starter Blair Bennett.
"Brandon played well for us," Handy said. "He didn't look out of place. He worked hard tonight for us."
Liberty (11-1, No. 7 in the latest ACHA DI rankings) outshot Rochester (4-6-0-2) by a 44-23 margin, but Warriors goalie Zakk Olvin made 40 saves and the Flames found themselves trailing twice before rallying for the victory.
"They have a pretty good goalie so if we just crashed the net and kept it simple, they were bound to go in eventually," Mistal said. "He made some really good saves on some cross-crease plays."
With 15 freshman on a 20-man roster, the Warriors' youth and inexperience at the ACHA DI level didn't show in the first period.
"You never really know, especially with a brand new team," Mistal said. "All the teams in this league work really hard and if we don't show up for the first couple periods and take them a little lightly, they can come in and score quick goals."
With 6:32 left in the first period, Rochester freshman forward Brock Malatches gathered the rebound of a high shot from the perimeter and bounced a backhanded pass through traffic in front of the net where sophomore forward Doug Lindsensmith took it and deked the puck around Bennett before depositing it backhanded into an open net.
Liberty knotted the score at 1-1 four and a half minutes into the second period when Mistal sent a pass up to DJ Dinnison, who pivoted and sent a nifty backhanded pass across the crease to fellow freshman forward Robert Ward. Olvin blocked Ward's low shot with his pads, but sophomore defenseman Cam Bakker was right there for the follow and threaded the puck into the upper right corner of the net.
Less than 10 minutes later, the Warriors recaptured the lead when Josh Foster snuck in behind Bennett and cleaned up the rebound of a shot by fellow freshman forward Joe Giordano from the right goal line.
"We were complacent, just kind of expecting it was going to be easy," Handy said. "Rochester College played well and they're going to battle, so we needed to battle for 60 minutes in order to be successful."
Mistal said focusing on who they had available rather than worrying about what the Warriors were going to do helped initiate the third-period turnaround.
"Our theme this year has been not to worry about the other team, but just to worry about ourselves," he said. "That's all you can really do to prepare for a game. Stick to the system and make sure we're following up on what the coaches are telling us and put ourselves in a good position."
Liberty and Rochester return to the LaHaye Ice Center for a rematch on Saturday, when the puck drops at 7 p.m.