Club Sports News

Lady Flames open first road trip by shutting out McKendree

October 5, 2017  |  Lebanon, Ill. 

Liberty sophomore forward Deena Birney (right), who scored the only goal Thursday night, controls the puck in the crease in a game against the Washington Pride. (Photo by Andrew Snyder)

Junior goalie Kelly Hutton returned from injury to post a shutout in Liberty University's ACHA Division I women's hockey team's first road contest and league debut, Thursday night at McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill.

The Lady Flames, ranked No. 1 in the ACHA DI Preseason Poll, outshot the 14th-ranked Bearcats by nearly a three-to-one margin (44-15), but only prevailed by a 1-0 count. Sophomore forward Deena Birney provided the game's only goal on a putback in the final 45 seconds of the first period.

"(Sophomore forward) Tiana Lisle passed it up to (junior defenseman) Katie Comeau, who took a shot from the point and Birney was able to find the rebound and put in into the open net," Liberty Head Coach Chris Lowes said. "Birney is a strong player who can win those battles in tight places."

Hutton, who started three postseason games in Liberty's run to the ACHA DI National Championship final last March, made 15 saves to preserve the narrow victory.

"They didn't have a lot of shots, but she made a few big saves," Lowes said. "Her best period was the first period, when they had two or three very good opportunities. Defensively, we had a few breakdowns, but we did what we needed to do."

Sophomore forward Deena Birney skates the puck out of the defensive zone in a recent game at the LaHaye Ice Center. (Photo by Andrew Snyder)

Offensively, Liberty failed to capitalize on any of its eight power-play chances as McKendree was called for nine penalties compared to just three for the Lady Flames.

"We could have potentially taken control of the game if we had produced on those, but they're a good team," Lowes said. "We controlled possession for a large part of the game (but) they made it tough for us. Most of our goal-scoring chances came off point shots and rebounds. They didn't give us many odd-man rushes or breakaways."

The Lady Flames had a second goal called back due to interference with McKendree goalie Jazmin Malinowski, who made 43 saves to keep the Bearcats in the contest.

"This game could have gone a lot of ways," Lowes said. "There were times where we thought we were going to open the floodgates and then there were times where it looked like they might tie it up."

McKendree is in its second season as an ACHA DI program and has a roster composed primarily of freshmen and sophomores.

"They're young and have a bright future," Lowes said. "They've got the potential to be a national qualifier."

Liberty continues its Fall Break road trip with two games at fourth-ranked Lindenwood-Belleville (Mo.), Friday at 10 p.m. (EST) and Saturday at 10:10 p.m. (EST).

Sophomore goalie Nadia Rupoli will start tonight's first contest in net while senior defenseman C.J. Tipping will make her season debut after recovering from an injury.

"We've got our work cut out for us," Lowes said. "(Lindenwood) will be a real tough test on the road. They're dangerous. Our girls have to progressively get better every week. We know it's a marathon and not a sprint."

The Lady Flames will look to get their fast-break attack going against the Lynx.

"It is a little concerning that we have only scored four goals in the last three games," Lowes said. "We are getting shots, but we're not really finding ways to finish. That's something Assistant Coach Justin Forth and I are talking about. We're going to have to shoot with a little more intention."


By Ted Allen/Staff Writer

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