Last-second goal foils Flames' bid for sweep at Stony Brook
January 11, 2015 | Hauppauge, N.Y.
Missed opportunities on breakaways and a last-second goal in regulation prevented 11th-ranked Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team from starting 2015 with an improbable sweep of No. 5 Stony Brook, Sunday afternoon at The Rinx in Hauppauge, N.Y.
Junior forward Tyler Underhill deflected senior defenseman Chris Joseph's shot from the top of the left circle up and off the shoulder of Flames freshman goalie Josh Halpenny. The puck trickled over the goal line into the back left corner of the net with just 0.2 seconds remaining in the third period as the Seawolves escaped with a 3-2 victory, salvaging a split.
"Our guys battled hard this weekend and deserved a better fate than they got today," Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said. "We had four or five breakaways we couldn't capitalize on and that was the difference in the game."
As in Saturday's 7-3 win over the Seawolves (18-4), the Flames (17-7-4) overcame a 1-0 deficit, this time after allowing Stony Brook senior forward Nick Barbera to finish a one-on-one with a backhanded wrist shot from the left post over a sprawled out Halpenny two minutes into the second period.
Liberty junior defenseman Steven Bellew tied the game at 1-1 by redirecting a shot from the left wing off a Seawolves defender with 6:36 left in the second. A minute and 23 seconds later, Stony Brook reclaimed the lead on its first deflected score when senior forward Vincent Lopes, posting up in the right circle, tipped senior defenseman Kevin Barry's low shot from the high point into the upper left netting.
Just over five minutes into the third period, the Flames retied it at 2-2 when sophomore forward Robert Ward — an ACHA All-Rookie selection last year playing in his second game with the Flames this season — put away fast-break assists from sophomore forward Grant Garvin and senior defenseman Cam Bakker in the right crease.
"Robert Ward had a really nice goal today and lots of chances," Handy said. "He's getting his feet back under him and the more and more he gets into the semester, the stronger he's going to get. He's had success in this league and we're looking forward to getting him back and acclimated to our lineup."
In the final nine minutes, Stony Brook missed a few golden opportunities of their own as sophomore forward Nick Coppola fired high on his shot from the right circle after a steal and senior forward Ryan Cotcamp went wide on an open shot from the right crease and lifted a wrist shot into Halpenny's mask on another point-blank chance.
Liberty senior forward Ryan Kerr, who had his one-on-one with Seawolves goalie Derek Willms denied in the second period, nearly netted the game-winner with 20 seconds remaining in regulation with his tip of a shot from the right blue line, but Willms made the glove save, setting up a faceoff in the offensive zone.
For the game, Liberty outshot Stony Brook 43-39 and again shut the Seawolves out with its penalty kill.
"Our guys came back ready to play this semester and overall, we're happy with their performance this weekend," Handy said. "This was a game that was there for the taking and we were right there. We obviously came up here to win two games, and didn't accomplish that goal, but we're proud of our team. In my opinion, we took another step forward and the sky's the limit for us. We're excited to keep building on the momentum we generated this weekend."
The Flames return to the LaHaye Ice Center this Friday and Saturday when they host Rochester (Mich.) The puck drops at 7 p.m. for both games.