Flames swept by undefeated 2012 ACHA DII champion FGCU
October 26, 2013 | Fort Myers, Fla.
Breakaway goals and missed opportunities on fast breaks cost Liberty University's ACHA Division II men's hockey team in its losses Friday and Saturday against Florida Gulf Coast University at Germain Arena.
"They had a full rink, a lively rink," Liberty head coach Chris Lowes said. "We had stretches where we played good, 30 to 40 minutes of good hockey each night. Against a team of this caliber, you can't afford to have those types of letdowns."
The 2012 ACHA DI national champion Eagles (8-0) swept the Flames by 5-3 and 7-3 scores despite being matched shot-for-shot by Liberty (11-3). Both teams totaled 39 shots on goal in each game.
Daniel Echeverri racked up six goals and dished out three assists for FGCU in the two games to overtake the ACHA DII scoring lead with 35 points in just eight games.
Liberty lost Friday night's first game after drawing within 4-3 with four minutes to go, pulling junior starter Cary Byron out of the cage and allowing an empty-net goal in the closing minute.
"(Echeverri) blocked a shot and was able to get a breakaway for an empty-netter," Lowes said, noting the junior forward also scored the Eagles' first two goals, the first on a power play. "He's a high-end hockey player. It's one thing to try to contain him, but to give him breakaways is a quick way to fall in the hole."
Senior forward Brad Docksteader scored a goal and added an assist and junior forward Johnny Cotton and freshman forward Jordan Barstead also netted goals for the Flames.
Liberty opened a 1-0 lead in Saturday's rematch when freshman forward Devon Docksteader finished a feed from older brother Brad. But FGCU tallied twice to close out the first period with a 2-1 edge before Echeverri netted the first of his two shorthanded breakaway scores to start a five-goal outburst in the second period.
For the game, the Eagles converted three breakaway goals against starting goalie Nick Devine, who trailed 5-1 when Byron replaced him with 14:04 left in the second.
"(Friday) night was very close, a better defensive game," Lowes said late Saturday night. "It was more wide open tonight, with more breakaways, more special teams, and a couple letdowns on defense."
Liberty, meanwhile, had three breakaway chances and a shootout try, but only scored once on those four opportunities on sophomore forward Eric Burke's shorthanded rush.
Sophomore forward Paul Ingles recorded the Flames' third goal off assists from both of the Docksteader brothers.
Liberty could take consolation in the fact that it gave FGCU its two toughest tests of the young season. The Eagles won their first six games by blowout, beating Vermont 8-1 and 13-1; Eastern Michigan, a team that upset Oakland's DI team this weekend, 9-1 and 6-2; and Northern Illinois 9-1 and 8-1.
"They're just a good team top to bottom," Lowes said. "You learn more from a loss than you will from a win and we learned a lot about ourselves. We now know as a team what it's going to take to beat as quality of a team as we would see at nationals. Good teams will make you pay and we found that out this weekend."
The Flames return to the LaHaye Ice Center next weekend for games against Maryland on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. and St. Joseph's on Sunday at 2:15 p.m.