Flames power past Grizzlies with two third-period goals
February 7, 2014 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team broke open a 1-1 tie with two unanswered goals — five minutes in and with less than five minutes left in the third period — to win Friday night's opener against Oakland (Mich.) University at the LaHaye Ice Center.
The 3-1 victory improved the Flames (25-6-2), ranked No. 4 in this week's ACHA DI poll, to 3-0 on the season against the No. 15 Golden Grizzlies (18-14-1).
Liberty senior defenseman Jackson Kuhn, who ranks fourth on the team in points, started the scoring just five minutes after the opening faceoff on a power play, finishing assists from junior forward Lindsay LeBlanc and senior forward and team captain Andrew McCombe.
"It was a tough play to defend because I was moving laterally, east to west, across the slot, so I kind of backed off my defenseman and it gave Lindsay a good target for him to hit me and there weren't any sticks in the lane or anything," Kuhn said. "I just put my stick on the ice and Lindsay put it right off it and it went right in the net."
The Flames outshot the Golden Grizzlies, 40-32, keeping the pressure on Oakland goalie Corey Hrischuk throughout the contest.
Hrischuk made a number of spectacular saves off quality scoring chances, preventing Liberty from breaking the game wide open in the second period and enabling the Golden Grizzlies to even the score at 1-1.
Oakland's Frank Matyok converted the equalizer at even strength off assists from fellow forwards Anthony Colizza and Mike MacKinnon in the final three minutes of the second period.
Early in the third, Liberty senior goalie Blair Bennett made a couple quick-reaction pad saves of point-blank shots by Grizzlies freshman forward Ryan Rotondi before. That allowed the Flames to reclaim the lead when junior forward Danny Logan, positioned deep in the left crease, knocked in a rebound of a perimeter shot by Brandon Mistal that struck off the post.
Bennett later preserved the one-goal advantage by denying Colizza on a one-on-one breakaway midway through the third. Colizza received a perfectly placed outlet pass and accelerated past the Flames' defense but Bennett squeezed his pads to keep him from beating him to the five hole.
"(Bennett) definitely kept us in it and when he's making saves it gives us confidence to go down there and do the same and help him out and get a score," Liberty sophomore defenseman Steven Bellew said.
The Grizzlies were playing without one of their two 50-point scorers, senior forward Billy Balent who is out with a concussion.
Liberty junior defenseman and assistant captain Matt Sherry, playing in his third game back from a knee injury, is starting on the third defensive line, but made a key play that led to the Flames' third goal late in the third period. Sherry stopped a Grizzlies fast-break opportunity and sparked a counterattack by poking the puck away from Rotondi and sending it back up the ice. Liberty junior forward Ryley Egan couldn't capitalize on the initial breakaway the other way, but he and Kuhn set up freshman forward Robert Ward for a score from the left circle, providing a two-goal cushion with 4:20 to play.
The Flames will look to complete their four-game season sweep against Oakland, as the Grizzlies did last weekend with a five-game season sweep of nearby rival Davenport, Saturday at LaHaye when the puck drops at 7 p.m. The game will be webcast live through the Liberty Flames Sports Network.