Flames work OT to school Profs in Southeast Regionals
February 23, 2013 | Pennsauken, N.J.
Freshman forward Peter Kazmierczak's slapshot on a break from near the blue line deflected off a defender's stick over the shoulder of Rowan goalie Brien Bennett and into the net to lift Liberty University's Division II men's hockey team to a 5-4 sudden-death overtime victory in Saturday's first round of the ACHA DII Southeast Regional tournament in Pennsauken, N.J.
The fourth-seeded Flames (21-8-1) advance to today's final match against 10th-seeded Maryland, which upset third-seeded rival UMBC in Saturday's afternoon clash. The winner of that game will qualify for the March 15-19 ACHA DII national tournament in St. Louis.
Liberty, which leads the Southeast with 192 goals, split a pair of games against Maryland this season, winning by a 5-2 score Oct. 27 in College Park before losing a 4-3 rematch Nov. 16 at the LaHaye Ice Center.
"It's going to be another one of those close battles," Liberty head coach Chris Lowes said. "It's going to come down to the end."
Rowan (19-9-1) ends its season in sudden-death fashion at the Skate Zone, despite out-shooting Liberty by a 53-38 margin.
Freshman goalie Nick Devine made 49 saves to seal the narrow win, which came three weeks to the day after the Flames routed Rowan 8-1 at LaHaye.
"Nick Devine was our player of the game, for sure," Lowes said. "Especially in the first, when they were all over us, he kept it close. They put a lot of pucks in our crease, and he made a couple big ones, spectacular (saves)."
Brad Docksteader, Liberty's leading scorer with 77 points, third most among ACHA DII players, broke the scoring ice three minutes into the action with a power-play goal off assists from Bobby Cervone and Caleb Allison.
That got the Flames' followers into the game from the get-go.
"We had a lot of fans," Lowes said. "They traveled well. We had quite a bit of support in the stands to match their crowd."
Rowan, which features a 27-man roster with 26 players from New Jersey, scored the final three goals of the first period (by Eric Moen, Shane Brennan, and Rob Willwerth) to seize a 3-1 advantage before the Flames responded with the only three goals of the second, the first two by Allison, to reclaim a 4-3 edge.
Allison's first goal came just two minutes after the first intermission on a power play, assisted by Docksteader and Kazmierczak, before his second, seven minutes later, was set up by Docksteader and Cervone. Freshman forward D.J. Dinnison tallied the third goal of the period, also on a power play off assists from John Cotton and Neal Henderson.
"That came on a real nice 3-on-2 tick-tack-toe play, from right in front of the goal, off a back-door pass from Cotton after Henderson started the rush," Lowes said.
But just two minutes into the third period, Travis Trent netted the equalizer for Rowan off an assist from Tim Larkin, and the game remained knotted at 4-4 for the rest of regulation.
Kazmierczak's game-winner occurred seven minutes into the overtime period, moments after Cervone went down with an injury and Devine saved a shot by Brennan.
"He's going to get X-rays," Lowes said of Cervone. "He won't be playing tomorrow."
Liberty will be seeking its first trip to the ACHA DII nationals since it added a DI team in 2007. Maryland has never earned a bid and Lowes hopes the Flames don't let this Terrapins squad become the first with a second upset in two days after the puck drops Sunday at 11:45 a.m.
"We've got to keep it simple," he said. "We made a couple mental mistakes (against the Profs) and they scored on the power play so we've got to eliminate the mental errors that cost us (Saturday)."