DII Flames' national dreams snuffed by Terrapins
February 24, 2013 | Pennsauken, N.J.
Liberty University's Division II men's hockey team suffered a 6-2 season-ending loss to Maryland, the No. 10 seed in the ACHA Division II Southeast Regional tournament, in Sunday afternoon's first of two finals at the Skate Zone in Pennsauken, N.J.
The Terrapins (10-11) upset third-seeded state rival UMBC, 6-5 in overtime, in Saturday's first round before beating the fourth-seeded Flames (21-9-1) for the second time in three tries this season. Three of the four first-round games played Saturday went to an extra period, with Liberty escaping Rowan 5-4 in overtime.
"They're playing really well," Liberty head coach Chris Lowes said of the Terps. "They probably deserved to be ranked higher. They peaked at the right time and put two really good games together, solid performances."
The Flames threatened throughout the opening period before Neal Henderson finally netted the game's first goal two minutes before the period's end on a power play, off assists from DJ Dinnison and Brandon Cox.
Maryland recorded the equalizer five minutes into the second period and moved in front to stay on an odd-man rush at the 16-minute mark.
"We had a really good first (period), then in the second, they outplayed us," Lowes said. "We just gave up a couple odd-man rushes that they capitalized on for their first two goals. We had our chances, we just didn't capitalize. In the first, we had a couple more chances we should have put away."
Dominic Cuomo netted a hat trick in the third period, when Maryland outscored Liberty 4-1, to pace the Terrapins' attack.
"One of their goals was an empty-netter," Lowes said, noting the Flames pulled goalie Nick Devine after the Terrapins surged ahead 5-1. "We were right where we needed to be (after the second period), but we couldn't put together a third. When they got up 3-1 and 4-1, we had to start taking chances to get back into it and it allowed them to get two more goals."
Liberty did get one goal back when Brad Docksteader scored off assists from Peter Kazmierczak and Clinton Nigh, but Cuomo completed his hat trick in the closing minutes to ice the win for Maryland, which earns its first-ever trip to nationals, March 15-19 in St. Louis, Mo.
"They played a better 60 minutes," Lowes said, noting losing junior Bobby Cervone to injury on Saturday disrupted the Flames' usual line rotation. "We won one period and they won two of them. Their top line had three goals. We had a tough time shutting them down."
Liberty falls one win short of its first ACHA DII national berth since 2006, when the Flames lost to Oakland in the championship game.
"Especially for the seniors in their final year, they had a big impact on our season, they all had key roles," Lowes said of Docksteader (the third-leading scorer in ACHA DII with 78 points), Henderson, Seth Reed, Kyle Burman, and Trenton MacDonald. "They gave it as their goal of moving on (to nationals), so it was tough for them to lose this game."
Lowes was proud of the Flames' effort in defeat, nonetheless.
"The boys battled hard," Lowes said. "They're bruised and battered and wore out. It makes them feel those dings a little more with the loss. A win would have gone a long way to sooth those wounds."
Bowling Green defeated Virginia Tech 5-3 in Sunday's second final, eliminating both teams from Virginia that were vying for national bids.