DII Flames shot down for third time by top-ranked Eagles
January 17, 2014 | Lynchburg, Va.
Three second-period power-play goals allowed Florida Gulf Coast University to stretch its lead on Liberty University's ACHA Division II men's hockey team to 5-0 en route to an 8-1 victory, Friday night at the LaHaye Ice Center.
Liberty (21-5), which slipped from No. 3 to No. 5 in the last ACHA DII Southeast Region poll, lost to the Eagles for the third time after falling twice, 5-3 and 7-3, Oct. 25-26 in Fort Myers, Fla.
FGCU (19-1-1), the 2012 ACHA DII national champion ranked No. 1 in the Southeast Region, has now outscored opponents by a 149-43 margin on the season.
"They're very talented and they're well coached," Flames Head Coach Chris Lowes said. "They play a good system and they move the puck well."
Regarding the Eagles' ranking, Lowes said they could probably play at the ACHA DI level.
"They deserve it," Lowe said. "We haven't had anyone put up more than four or five goals on us, so they're dangerous offensively and they kept us off the board. Teams aren't normally able to keep us under three, four, or five goals."
FGCU senior forward Ryan McAleese netted a hat trick and sophomore forward Mike Chemello added two scores, the first less than 30 seconds into the second period after receiving an outlet pass near mid-ice. He skated the puck in, accelerating past Liberty defenders before lifting his shot top-shelf past Flames goalie Cary Byron.
"Penalties were a big part of it," Lowes said. "They're that good and you can't give them those opportunities. They got a couple bounces. It was a convincing win for them, but I don't think it was as bad as the scoreboard indicates. They had a couple open nets and pucks landed on their sticks."
Chemello extended the Eagles' advantage to 6-0 just 2:02 into the third period with a similar shot that beat Justin Gortman to the upper netting from the left crease.
The Flames hadn't been shut out in a regular-season game since 2008 in a 0-0 tie against Virginia, but it looked like FGCU, which outshot Liberty 40-16 on the night, just might.
"Hockey's a lot about momentum and we just couldn't get it," Lowes said. "We would have a couple good shifts and something always broke our momentum. When you come out for second period (with a player in the penalty box), we can't even go out and have a couple good shifts to get the guys to get things sorted out."
Junior defenseman Clinton Nigh finally got the Flames on the scoreboard midway through the third period, finishing a cross-ice feed from senior forward Brad Docksteader in the left crease for the game's final goal.
In order to have a shot of staging an upset of the Eagles in Saturday's rematch, set for 5 p.m. at LaHaye, the Flames will need to makes some wholesale improvements.
"We had a few guys do a few good things, but as a whole, you can't have that much of your team having an off night or playing poorly," Lowes said. "There was a bit of everything. It was a bit of effort, it was a bit of decision-making, it was a bit of execution. Really, we weren't sharp in a lot of areas – defense, forwards, top to bottom in the lineup. We just need to be better and have everyone kind of step up."
Images by Ty Hester/Liberty University