Flames surge past WVU in second period, struggle in third
February 14, 2014 | Lynchburg, Va.
A three-goal second period boosted Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team to a 5-2 victory over visiting West Virginia University in Friday night's opening game of the final ACHA regular-season series at the LaHaye Ice Center.
The Flames got on the scoreboard with 10:01 left in the first period when senior forward Bram Erickson picked up a loose puck near the Mountaineers' blue line and put a high shot on goal from the right circle. Senior goalie Eric Schaetzle couldn't quite handle the puck, letting it slip between his mitts onto the ice in front of the cage where Liberty sophomore forward Danny Logan poked it into the net.
"The first two periods, we outshot them 17-4 and 13-4. Then the third period, they outshoot us 10-8 and we gave them three power plays and we stepped away from our game. So (Saturday) we want to make sure that we stay within our game," Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said. "There wasn't a lot of emotion or energy tonight in the building, so our guys have to find that little bit of edge in order to make sure we play a full 60 minutes on Saturday."
Seconds after the Flames killed off a penalty against sophomore defenseman Steven Bellew, freshman defenseman Chase Harris made an alert steal and sparked the transition game with a short pass to senior forward and captain Andrew McCombe. He accelerated up the ice, making a backhanded pass across the crease to Harris for an open-net finish and a 2-0 edge at the 13:01 mark of the second period.
"That was a great play by McCombe," Handy said. "I really thought that was one of the turning points in the game for us. He picks the puck up there and goes in with authority and makes a play and Chase Harris stops in front of the net with the stick on the ice and buries it."
McCombe and junior defenseman and captain Matt Sherry assisted the Flames' third goal with a short pass between the circles to junior forward and leading scorer Lindsay LeBlanc. He controlled the puck and made a quick move through the left crease with nifty stickwork before finishing through Schaetzle's five hole with 4:47 to go in the second period.
Two and a half minutes later, Sherry lifted a wrist shot from the left circle that Logan deflected into the upper netting off assists from sophomore forwards Tyson Street and Erickson.
"Lindsay has been doing it all year for us, so it was nice to see Logan have a solid game with two goals tonight," Handy said. "Matt (Sherry's) been getting stronger every night for us, and you can see him starting to get back to where he needs to be. One of the best compliments for Matt is when the guys he's playing with are playing well. He makes the guys around him better."
Finally, in the third period, WVU freshman defenseman Chris Ponter ended the shutout and pulled the Mountaineers within 4-1 by finishing a pass from behind the net past Liberty senior goalie Blair Bennett with 15:35 to go.
However, Flames freshman forward Robert Ward added an insurance score by taking a pass from senior defenseman and captain Jackson Kuhn and maneuvering the puck in position before putting it away inside the near post a split second before being checked to the ice. WVU capped the scoring at the 7:01 mark when senior forward Tom Semeraro cashed in on a cross-crease pass from Ponter.
Handy hopes the Flames can break the scoring ice early in Saturday's rematch, set for 7 p.m. at LaHaye.
"That's something we really want to work on — our quick starts," he said. "That's going to be big for us (Saturday) night."
Saturday's game will feature the Teddy Bear Toss, where spectators who bring a stuffed animal to throw out onto the ice when Liberty scores its first goal will receive free admission to the game to support Gleaning for the World's Teddy Bear Brigade.
The game will be webcast live through the Liberty Flames Sports Network.