Flames make case for top-10 ranking with seventh win in row
November 16, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
After debuting at No. 12 in last week's first ACHA Division III men's hockey South Regional rankings, Liberty University improved to 11-1 and made a case for moving up into the top 10, if not the top five, with its sixth and seventh consecutive victories, Friday and Saturday nights at the LaHaye Ice Center.
The Flames got a goal and an assist from Chad Docksteader and Kyle Burman in Friday's 4-1 upset of third-ranked Christopher Newport before senior fourth-year captain and forward Brandon Cockburn netted four goals and sophomore goalie Daniel Flaherty notched his first shutout in Saturday's 11-0 rout of unranked Richmond. Both opponents are in the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference Colonial North Division.
"All four lines have been dangerous for us," Cockburn said. "(Friday), Burman's line got most of our points against CNU, which was a huge game for us. It's just a full team effort. Everyone's clicking and we're just getting the puck deep, doing a real good job of cycling, and just doing the simple things right."
This weekend's games against the Captains and Spiders stood in dramatic contrast to Liberty's first game against a BRHC Colonial South Division rival on Sept. 28, a 5-4 shootout victory over UNC Wilmington after the Flames erased an early 4-0 deficit.
"At the beginning of the year, we were like the team that was the fairy tale of comebacks, but now, it's nice to be getting a lead, playing well right from the beginning," Cockburn said. "Hopefully, we'll continue that for the rest of the year."
Freshman forward Chase Evangelista started the scoring for Liberty against CNU, finishing assists from Docksteader and Burman with 6:44 left in the first period. Docksteader made it 2-0 with just over two minutes left in the first off a feed from junior defenseman Drew Muir.
"That line, Evangelista, Docksteader, and Burman, they've been playing incredible lately," Liberty Head Coach Tristan Chambers said. "They've been probably our top line recently. Cockburn's line's been playing well, but Burman's line's just been a little bit better."
The Captains (12-4), who lost to Liberty's DII team 9-2 on Sept. 27, netted the only goal of the second period before the Flames tacked on two insurance goals in the third when Ryan Francis converted off assists from Kevin Serapiglia and Ryan Conaghan and Burman scored unassisted.
"We set a game plan out (against CNU), we told the guys what we wanted them to do and they executed," Chambers said. "They followed what we were shooting for and when they do that, usually success comes. It was good. They followed exactly what we were looking for and were rewarded for it."
Saturday against Richmond (1-7), the Flames netted three goals in the first and second periods before finishing with a five-goal flurry in the third stanza. Senior defenseman Carl Harter sparked the attack by chasing down a long through pass down the left wing and finishing with a left-handed wrist shot from deep in the left circle just three and a half minutes in to the action. Cockburn later skated through the right circle and deftly put in his first goal from near the right post, past sophomore goalie Nate Sherman. Serapidia then lifted Liberty to a 3-0 lead by deflecting an entry pass from Francis from the left wing past Sherman into the upper netting.
Cockburn started things off in the second by slamming home a backhanded finish of a no-look backhanded pass across the goal mouth from senior forward Markus Deas, just 3:45 after the first intermission. He later skated in and cut across the crease at a tough angle, drawing Sherman out of position before extending the lead to 5-0 with another sweeping backhanded shot.
Deas then finished a one-on-one with Sherman after receiving an acrobatic spinning pass from Docksteader, who was tripped up by Richmond senior defenseman Weston Harty in the left circle for a 6-0 cushion.
"Deas played last year for us and with a few guys being out, he's had the opportunity to step up and fill in on Cockburn's line and he's done what we've asked him to do and he's playing very well there," Chambers said. "That line's starting to click as well."
Early in the third, with Burman in the penalty box, Cockburn scored a shorthanded goal, accelerating up the ice to take advantage of a breakaway by putting away another backhander to stretch the lead to 7-0.
"Cockburn, I don't know what it was, it just seemed like he was a different guy out there," Chambers said. "Obviously, he's always a guy we can rely on, but tonight just another level of determination and at least two of his goals were just him deciding to do it by himself end-to-end and finish."
Docksteader set up Evangelista for another upper-90 goal to make it 8-0 before senior forward Chris Gurreri backhanded the rebound of shots by Deas and Muir into an open net for a 9-0 advantage.
Caleb Weesner then cleaned up a loose puck after Kade McDaniel crashed into the left post on a near score before fellow freshman forward Jarrod Beresid finished off a putback to cap the scoring for the first goals of their fledgling careers at Liberty.
The Flames will return to action next Friday and Saturday at East Carolina University, currently ranked No. 5 in the South Region. Only the top 10 teams advance to the Feb. 21-22 South Regional Tournament in Columbia, S.C.