No. 1 Lady Flames post 12th shutout, sweep No. 8 UMass
February 3, 2018 | Amherst, Mass.
Liberty University's ACHA Division I women's hockey team improved to 5-0 at the University of Massachusetts' Mullins Center's Olympic-sized ice this season by completing a two-game sweep of the eighth-ranked Minutewomen, winning 2-0 Saturday afternoon in Amherst, Mass.
The top-ranked Lady Flames (24-3, 22-1 ACHA), who had won games against Rhode Island, UMass, and Penn State in a Nov. 3-5 showcase in the same rink, recorded their 12th shutout of the season and third in as many chances against the Minutewomen.
"They are right on the bubble for making (ACHA DI) Nationals as the No. 8-ranked team, so they came at us with everything they had and gave us their best shot," Liberty Head Coach Chris Lowes said. "It was nice to go on the road and compete in these playoff-style games in that they were closely contested."
The Lady Flames scored one goal on special teams and held UMass (12-9-1) scoreless on its seven power-play opportunities.
"We did a good job on the PK, including on a five-on-three late in the third period that we were able to kill off," Lowes said. "Our power play produced, and we needed that. It has been an important piece of our puzzle all year."
Senior forward C.J. Tipping, who scored the lone goal in Friday's 1-0 opening win, capitalized on Liberty's first five-on-four advantage midway through the first period. She received assists from sophomore forward Deena Birney and freshman forward Shannon Fehr and skated in from along the boards before firing her shot.
With the two teams at full strength midway through the second period, Birney capped the scoring by tipping in junior defenseman Katie Comeau's shot from the point, assisted by sophomore forward Alex Smibert.
"It was another low-scoring game, but we played quite a bit better than we did on Friday night," Lowes said. "As a team, we were significantly better from the first puck drop. We played a great first period. The second and third periods got a little sloppy and a little physical … but overall, we're real happy."
Liberty outshot the Minutewomen, 47-21, and graduate goalie Chantal Kerr posted her first shutout.
"In both games, our goalies bailed us out with some key saves," Lowes said. "We played pretty good five-on-five but UMass had some prime scoring chances when we had breakdowns on its power plays."
Liberty will conclude ACHA regular-season play with one game against Colorado State on Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the LaHaye Ice Center, when it will honor its three seniors, before tuning up for nationals with two exhibition games against a Northern Virginia travel team on March 3-4.
If the rankings remain the same, the Lady Flames would face the Minutewomen in the best-of-three quarterfinal round at the March 14-18 ACHA DI National Championships in Columbus, Ohio.