Flames overcome slow start with strong finish against Hokies
January 20, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Senior forward Rick Turner, the leading scorer on Liberty University's Division I men's hockey team who is tied for fourth in the ACHA with 57 points, netted the go-ahead goal and put the game against rival Virginia Tech on ice Sunday night with a well timed assist to Lindsay LeBlanc. That helped the Flames roast the Hokies, 5-2, in their first home game at the LaHaye Ice Center since Dec. 8.
"He hadn't scored in a couple games so it was definitely a big goal on the power play," said Liberty head coach Kirk Handy, who returned to the bench after missing the team's trip to West Virginia following the birth of his fourth son, Porter. "He was on the point, stepped in and made a real nice shot. That's what we rely on Rick for, that kind of shot."
Virginia Tech (13-7), coming off a 10-3 rout over its top rival, Virginia, on Friday night, opened the scoring at the 12:24 mark of the first period. Greg Kubrak, a junior forward from Blacksburg, watched his straight-on shot from 25 feet out deflect into the air over Liberty goalie Clayton Brown, who lost sight of it as it flipped into the back of the net.
The Hokies, who are 11-0 at home this season but only 2-7 on the road, led 1-0 and that's how the score remained for exactly 24 minutes.
"This was our third game in three days and it was obviously a little bit of an emotional letdown for us at the beginning of the game," Handy said. "We had to get our guys in the game we had to get them focused. They're a Division II team and you start thinking about all that stuff in your head. But we regrouped in the second and I thought the turning point in the game was Ryan Kerr's shorthanded goal."
With 8:24 left in the second period, the Flames tied it up at 1-1 with 16 seconds left on the Hokies' power play when Kerr regained possession of the puck in the right circle by tapping it through the skates of a defender and pocketing a shot on the fly past goalie Walker Detweiler.
"We were looking for something to gain momentum our way and that was definitely it," Handy said. "A shorthanded goal, that's a big goal. That's the way Ryan Kerr plays. He's a momentum changer for us. In that moment there, he changed the whole complexion of the game."
Liberty went ahead less than two minutes later with its second of three goals in a span of less than three minutes. Defenseman Jackson Kuhn poked a steal away from a Virginia Tech player up to Brent Boschman, who started a break before Turner finished off a return feed from Kuhn.
"It was just at the end of the power play," Turner said. "We were kind of scrambling around a little bit, but the puck ended up on my stick and I just wanted to throw it off the net and good things happen. LeBlanc on the far side ended up getting the rebound and gave it to Kuhn up top and they all collapsed on him. He threw me the puck and I was wide open on the side and just let a shot go and hoped it went in."
A minute later, the Flames seized a 3-1 advantage when defender Matt Sherry's shot from the top of the right circle deflected off the knee of freshman forward Paul Ingles into the left side of the net.
"He'd probably say he tried to do that, but I think it was a fluke," Sherry said. "He was in the right place at the right time. I was just trying to hit the puck through and when you get the puck through, good things happen and luckily it hit our guy and went into the net and we capitalized off it."
After Kubrak scored his second goal for Virginia Tech through the legs of Brown, trimming the Flames' advantage to 4-2, and Brown saved a penalty shot by James Lazzarotti in the closing three minutes, LeBlanc put away a pass from Turner on transition following a steal by Kuhn on the defensive end.
"Kuhner made the steal and as soon as I saw him pick the puck up I turned around and started going towards the net," Turner said. "He fed me a perfect pass and I knew that the defensemen and the goalie were going to look at me to shoot it so I baited them in a little bit and I saw (LeBlanc) going to the net so I put it right on his stick and he knew what to do with it after that."
Liberty only had five defensemen available with B.J. Pirus and Cam Bakker sidelined by injury but Kuhn and Sherry came up big with steals and physical play around the cage. When Brown came out of the net to try to clear the puck near the Virginia Tech bench early in the second period, Sherry slid to his knee to make a leg save of a follow-up shot.
"They went up on us by one but we knew we had to keep our composure and play our game," Sherry said. "Coming back showed the character and depth that we have, especially being short a couple guys today. We had five (defensemen) and a couple forwards were out, too, so the win meant a lot.
"Any time you play Virginia Tech, you know you're going to have a game, especially with the rivalry," he added. "After not having played at home for a while, it was kind of a double whammy and we're happy with the outcome."
The Flames (19-9-2) take a five-game win streak into next Friday and Saturday's home rematch with Arizona, where the streak began a day after a shootout loss at top-ranked Arizona State.
"They played us tough two games there," Turner said, noting Liberty erased two-goal deficits in the third period of 7-6 and 7-5 wins against the Wildcats. "We expect nothing less when they come here."
"They'll be coming back trying to get some revenge," Sherry added. "That's a game where if we come out like (they did against Virginia Tech), it'll be a different story. We've got to really come out and play 60 minutes instead of 25 or 30."
20130120 D1 Gallery - Images by David Duncan/Liberty University