Lady Flames skate past Ice Dogs in final nationals tune-ups
March 4, 2018 | Lynchburg, Va.
There was no apparent rust on the skates of Liberty University's ACHA Division I women's hockey team, which got its first live action in three weeks and swept a series against the Northern Virginia U19 Ice Dogs by 13-1 and 7-0 scores, respectively, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at the LaHaye Ice Center.
"It was just a chance for us to go out and compete," Lady Flames Head Coach Chris Lowes said. "We've been doing things in practice to try to keep the competition going, but there's nothing like being on the bench together with your team and battling. We had some key areas to work on and it was a nice break from practice."
Freshman forward Shelby Bradford started the scoring in both games and completed her hat trick in the opener with back-to-back goals that pushed Liberty's lead to 10-0 by the end of a six-goal second period.
Sophomore forward Alex Smibert scored the second and third goals of the first period to stretch Liberty's lead to 3-0 in the first game before netting the third and the fifth scores in the rematch, extending the Lady Flames' advantage Sunday to 5-0.
|Lady Flames senior forward Chelsey Greenwood fronts two NOVA players Saturday. (Photo by Joel Isimeme).|
Senior forwards Chelsey Gilmour, C.J. Tipping, and Courtney Gilmour, sophomore forwards Shelby Burden, Deena Birney, and Vanessa DeMerchant, sophomore defenseman Emily John, and freshman forward Shannon Fehr each scored once in Saturday's opener before Burden and Fehr netted the second and fourth goals, respectively, in Sunday's rematch.
The Lady Flames added two third-period goals Sunday when sophomore forward Tiana Lisle skated the puck along the left boards, cut back and tucked it through the five hole of NOVA's goalie just over a minute in before sophomore defenseman Dana McLeod capped the scoring shorthanded, skating through the right circle and slicing through the crease before lifting a backhanded wrist shot into the net.
Liberty, which outshot the Ice Dogs 45-16 on Sunday, scored three shorthanded goals, capitalizing on an effective penalty kill that helped preserve the shutout for sophomore goalie Nadia Rupoli.
"On special teams, we were pretty aggressive and the girls did a pretty good job of getting possession and keeping it and we were able to put some pucks toward the net," Lowes said.
The Lady Flames (25-3, ranked first in ACHA DI) will open play in the ACHA DI National Championships on March 14 with the first game of their best-of-three series against No. 8 Minnesota, a rematch from last year's quarterfinals, starting at 9:30 p.m. Thursday's second game is set for 7:45 p.m. back in the Ice Haus with Friday's "if necessary" rubber match to be played at 7:15 p.m. in The Chill North.
"We have big goals," Lowes said. "It's just a matter of us putting it together at the right time and having a great week as a team."
If Liberty can advance to its sixth straight Final Four, the Lady Flames and winners from other quarterfinal matches — between No. 2 Adrian and No. 7 Massachusetts, No. 3 Michigan State and No. 6 Colorado, and No. 4 Miami (Ohio) University and No. 5 Lindenwood Belleville — would be reseeded for the Saturday, March 17, semifinals at 12:15 and 3:15 p.m. back in the Ice Haus, where the championship game will be played on Sunday, March 18, at 5:15 p.m.
"I think we'll be mentally ready if it is Miami," Lowes said of the RedHawks, who upset the top-ranked Lady Flames in last year's final for their third title in the past four seasons. "It's been a long layoff so our girls are fairly healthy and will be ready to play."