DII Flames end regular season by fending off Panthers
February 1, 2014 | Lynchburg, Va.
On senior night, late Saturday at the LaHaye Ice Center, Liberty University senior forward Brad Docksteader got the Flames' DII men's hockey team on the scoreboard against Pittsburgh, assisted by junior defenseman Ryan Francis and sophomore forward Paul Ingles.
"Ingles was going hard and took a good shot and I just buried the rebound," said Docksteader, who ranks third in the ACHA in scoring with 36 goals and 38 assists on the season and 133 goals and 122 assists for his five-year career at Liberty.
Less than two minutes after Panthers senior defenseman Mark Clifford evened the score, finishing feeds from Jeremy Goral and Nicholas Bascou, freshman forward Devon Docksteader sparked a three-goal surge by Flames, scoring on a perimeter shot that snuck past Pittsburgh freshman goalie Michael Mina midway through the first period. That lifted Liberty (24-6-1) to a 2-1 lead en route to a 5-3 victory over the Panthers (4-13-3) in the regular-season finale.
"It gave us some energy to go ahead and score a few more goals," Brad Docksteader said.
"We've just got to keep the momentum we picked up from tonight and carry it into the playoffs," fellow senior forward Bobby Cervone added.
Josh King and Erik Burke boosted Liberty's lead to 4-1 with second-period goals assisted by fellow sophomore forward Jeff Boschman.
"King and Burke are good linemates," Boschman said. "They're the hardest workers on the team and it always pays off for them. It's fun to play with them. They make it easy."
Pittsburgh mounted a surprising comeback bid in the third period, scoring twice in a span of 62 seconds on goals by senior forward Justin Lombardozzi and junior forward Jeremy Goral. Lombardozzi crashed into Flames junior goalie Cary Byron while depositing the puck into the five-hole before and Goral put away a rebound left out in front of the cage with a shot inside the left post.
Cervone, who hit three posts on the night, nearly scored from point-blank range moments later only to have his shot deflect off the helmet of Mina and over the cage. Midway through the third, Liberty junior forward Johnny Cotton padded the lead back two goals with a shot past Cervone that slipped through Mina's pads.
Liberty will travel to Abingdon, Md., for the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association (MACHA) playoffs Feb. 14-16 before hosting the ACHA DII Southeast Regional Tournament the following weekend.
"We're pumped to play in the playoffs, especially the regionals, because they're going to be here," Boschman said.
The Flames are eyeing their first ACHA DII National Tournament bid since 2006, when they advanced to the championship game before moving up to the DI level the following season.
"We've got to win both games, so we've just got to be focused, stay out of the box, for sure, and just play our game," Brad Docksteader said. "With it being CFAW weekend, hopefully, we can bring a big crowd and I'm sure some family members will be down so I think we're going to be ready to go."