Flames out to start new winning streak on Michigan road trip
November 20, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
After splitting its series with Stony Brook last weekend at the LaHaye Ice Center, snapping its 10-game winning streak, Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team dropped one spot to No. 5 in this week's ninth regular-season ACHA Division I rankings heading into this weekend's three-game road trip to Michigan.
The Flames (18-2) left Wednesday morning on a 12-hour bus trip to Grand Rapids, Mich., where they will face No. 18 Davenport on Thursday in the third and final game of the Blue and Gray Cup, which they already clinched by sweeping the Panthers on Oct. 18-19.
Liberty then will shuttle three hours toward Detroit to face No. 15 Oakland, which swept its series against the Panthers last weekend in its home rink in Rochester Hills, Mich.
Scouting Preview, Games 20-21: No. 5 Liberty (17-2) at No. 18 Davenport (7-6-1), Nov. 21 (8:30 p.m.) at Patterson Ice Rink in Grand Rapids, Mich.; at No. 15 Oakland (11-8) Nov. 22 (8:20 p.m.) and Nov. 23 (7:50 p.m.) at the ONYX Ice Arena in Rochester Hills, Mich. Watch the game against the Panthers through the Davenport website; games against the Golden Grizzlies will be webcast live by Oakland.
Liberty scouting report: Offensively, the Flames are among the highest-scoring teams in the country, ranking third with 93 goals in 19 games (4.9 goals per game) behind only No. 1 Arizona State University (108) and Canisius College (99).
Junior forward Lindsay LeBlanc (10 goals, 15 assists, 25 points) scored the tying goal in the final 12 seconds of regulation in last Friday's 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Stony Brook before netting the first goal in a shootout. He is tied with Robert Ward (7 goals, 18 assists) for the team scoring lead, with Ward ranking second among rookies in ACHA DI.
Senior forward and team captain Andrew McCombe (10G, 14A) is the Flames' third-leading scorer followed by senior defenseman Jackson Kuhn (7G, 14A), freshman forward Charles Williams (9G, 10A), and junior forward Ryley Egan (11G, 7A).
Senior goalie Blair Bennett (1.84 goals-against average, 0.93 save percentage) improved to 8-0, making three clutch saves in the shootout against Stony Brook before freshman Matt Pinel (9-2, 2.72 GAA, 0.90 SP), who ranks second among rookies in wins, suffered a rare loss to the Seawolves, who dealt the Flames their first shutout in more than two years.
Davenport scouting report: The Panthers' attack is paced by senior defenseman Phil Wendecker (6G, 10A), junior forward Robert Kleiman (5G, 11A), and sophomore left wing Luke McCarthy (6G, 5A), their only three double-digit scorers. Senior Phil Graveline (3-4-1, 2.76 GAA, 0.90 SP) has logged the most minutes in goal, but sophomore Matthew Kaludis (4-1, 1.85 GAA, 0.93 SP) has experienced more success and netted better statistics.
Oakland scouting report: The Golden Grizzlies have two of the ACHA's leaders in assists —junior forwards Anthony Colizza (8G, 22A) and Billy Balent (10G, 21A) —who rank second and fifth, respectively, and are in the top 15 in the nation in scoring overall. David Merkle (8G, 14A) is Oakland's third-leading scorer with 22 points followed by fellow senior forward Frank Matyok (7G, 12A) and sophomore forward Drew Parus (6G, 10A).
Junior Corey Hrischuk (9-6, 3.19 GAA, 0.90 SP) has started most of the Golden Grizzlies' games in goal.
All-time series: Liberty leads the all-time series with Davenport 17-15-1 after sweeping both games against the Panthers Oct. 18-19 at the LaHaye Ice Center. The Flames' record against Oakland is 11-10-2 after losing three out of four matchups last season, including both at LaHaye last Feb. 8-9.
Coaches: Kirk Handy, in his 14th season as Flames head coach, has an overall record of 296-124-13. Phil Sweeney is in his third season as head coach of the Panthers after serving as an assistant for seven seasons. His overall record is 55-35-3, including a 30-10-1 mark last season that boosted Davenport's ACHA DI ranking as high as No. 7. Oakland is under the direction of first-year Head Coach Gordie Schaeffler, who is in his ninth season with the Golden Grizzles, previously working with the Oakland defense and coordinating the team's strength and conditioning.