Liberty pounces on Panthers with four second-period scores
February 8, 2014 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's ACHA Division I women's hockey team appears to be peaking at the right time as it approaches the home stretch of the 2013-14 season. The Lady Flames scored four unanswered goals in the second period to rout visiting Davenport, a first-year program, 7-1, late Friday night at the LaHaye Ice Center.
"The girls played really well and moved the puck well," Liberty Head Coach Paul Bloomfield said. "The team's starting to gel, finally. Three or four of those goals were beautiful setups. That's what we work on all year, so it's kind of funny when it's almost the end of the season that you're starting to do that, but it's at a time when we're going to need it."
Liberty (13-8-4), which lost four of six games from late November to late January and was on the brink of not qualifying for the ACHA DI National Tournament, has now won four in a row for the first time this season. Another victory over the Panthers (7-16) on Saturday afternoon should clinch Liberty's fourth trip to nationals in the past five seasons by securing a top-eight finish in the fourth and final ACHA DI poll.
"If we do what we need to do (Saturday), that should bump us up to probably fourth or fifth place, in the middle of the field, which is a good spot to be in going into nationals," Bloomfield said.
"We've just to work on getting better and getting our team strong for nationals," freshman forward Marissa Graham added. "Communication is really key and we just have to work hard, help each other out, and stay positive."
After edging No. 1-ranked Miami (Ohio) 4-3 on Jan. 24, Liberty has won its last three games by a 26-2 margin, including a 9-0 and 10-1 sweep of Northeastern last weekend.
On Friday night, Liberty outshot Davenport 43-11, taking complete control of the contest in the second period.
Lady Flames junior goalie Chantal Lischynski made a save off a backhanded shot by the Panthers before sophomore forward Catharine Burrell capitalized on a counterattack by finishing a fast-break feed from freshman forward Courtney Gilmour for a 1-0 lead at the 9:00 mark of the first period.
With Davenport on the power play two and a half minutes later, sophomore defenseman Megan DeVries tied the game with her shot from the high slot that deflected through a Panthers screen in front of Lischynski. But the Lady Flames went back on top 1:45 later, this time to stay, when junior defenseman Autumn Kucharczyk's shot from the left point was deflected in off the post by junior forward Sarah Stevenson.
Starting the second period on a power play, the Lady Flames cashed in as the man advantage expired 30 seconds in when Graham finished off a feed from senior defenseman Courtney Fischer.
Sophomore forward Carrie Jickling lifted a wrist shot into the top left corner of the cage off the first of three straight second-period assists from Stevenson to push the lead to 4-1.
Stevenson set up Jickling's assist from behind the cage to Graham for a quick one-time finish from in the right crease, extending the lead to 5-1 at the 10:01 mark.
"I love my linemates," said Graham, who has overtaken Stevenson and Jickling as the Lady Flames' scoring leader. "I couldn't have done it without them. Stevenson and Jickling made really good passes to me. Both goals were pretty similar, just one-timers into the net. It's nice to be rewarded for hard work."
Just 40 seconds after Graham's second goal, Jickling left the puck for Stevenson, who circled back around and skated in before dishing to Gilmour, who stretched Liberty's lead to 6-1 by finishing her shot off the right post.
Fischer put the finishing touches on the victory by skating between the circles and lifting her wrist shot into the upper netting six minutes into the third period.
Saturday's rematch, set for 3 p.m. at LaHaye, is Liberty's last regular-season ACHA game.