Liberty sweeps Oakland, takes two out of three in Michigan
November 23, 2013 | Rochester Hills, Mich.
For the second night in a row, and what's become a regular occurrence this season, Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team got goal production from all four of its lines in Saturday's 5-3 victory over Oakland at the ONYX Ice Arena in Rochester Hills, Mich.
The Flames (19-3) bounced back from their first two-game losing skid by completing a two-game sweep of the host Grizzlies (11-10), the team that defeated Liberty in the 2006 ACHA DII national championship game before capturing the ACHA DI national title the very next year.
"We had a solid game again tonight," Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said. "All four lines scored again tonight, which was a key factor for us. A balanced attack allows us to win these games. We're excited to go on the (Thanksgiving) break on a winning note and to recover from the back-to-back losses (to Stony Brook and Davenport) where we didn't play very well."
Handy said the Flames put together one of their best periods of hockey this season in the second period, when they netted their final three goals to take a commanding 5-1 lead.
"We played well," Handy said. "It was a team effort, especially in the second period, when we were able to get the cycle going, get the puck down low, and establish the forechecking and cycling as well as the backchecking in the neutral zone that were key components in our success. We got some good hard work from our guys down low."
After scoring four of its five goals on the power play Friday night, Liberty netted all five goals at even strength Saturday. The Golden Grizzlies started the scoring at the 15:35 mark with their first of two power-play goals. Sophomore forward Danny Logan tied it at 1-1 with 9:03 left in the first off assists from senior defenseman Jackson Kuhn and freshman forward Charles Williams.
Then, junior forward Lindsay LeBlanc put the Flames on top to stay with 3:34 to go in the first period off an assist from sophomore defenseman Steven Bellew, who took a shot from the point. LeBlanc pounced on the loose puck, turned around and threw it back on net.
In the second period, junior forward Ryan Kerr scored on a two-on-one break sparked by senior forward Caleb Grow and sophomore forward Tyler Street with 8:14 to go.
"It was a two-on-one and Street made a fantastic pass over to Kerr who scored into a wide-open net," Handy said.
Then at the 6:43 mark, Robert Ward, tied with LeBlanc for Liberty's lead, finished feeds from fellow freshman forward Brandon Mistal and sophomore forward D.J. Dinnison, who created off of a great cycle down low.
Finally, in the closing five minutes of the period, freshman forward Chase Harris recorded his first goal of the year off assists from LeBlanc and senior forward and captain Andrew McCombe, who snuck the shot from the point.
Oakland outshot Liberty, 42-28, with Flames senior Blair Bennett making 39 saves in goal.
"One of the big stories of the game was Blair Bennett," Handy said. "He had a fantastic game tonight. Both he and Matt (Pinel) have been solid all year and he played solid again tonight."
After giving up the game's first goal, Bennett kept Liberty in the game with some spectacular saves, especially in the first period when Oakland outshot the Flames, 17-10.
Handy said he is looking forward to next week's break to allow a few of his players to get healthy. He expects sophomore defenseman Brandon Cox to be back in action for Liberty's next game and last of the semester, Dec. 7 against Virginia Tech in the LaHaye Ice Center.