Flames can clinch ESCHL title in stellar battle against NYU
February 6, 2020 | Lynchburg, Va.
This weekend, Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team will entertain New York University for a showdown of intergalactic proportions at the LaHaye Ice Center.
As the Flames seek to clinch their third consecutive ESCHL regular-season championship and autobid to the March 19-24 ACHA DI National Championships in Frisco, Texas, with a sweep of the Violets, characters representing the Empire and Jedi forces will patrol the concourse for Saturday night's rematch on Liberty Hockey's second "Star Wars Night."
Liberty, which remained at an all-time-high No. 2 plateau in this week's ACHA DI rankings, concludes ESCHL play next weekend at No. 21 Delaware before hosting undefeated Adrian College, which has occupied the No. 1 spot for the past 12 ranking periods.
Scouting Preview, Games 28-29: No. 24 New York University (8-8-1, 6-6 ESCHL) at No. 2 Liberty (23-4, 14-2 ESCHL), Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (7 p.m.) at the LaHaye Ice Center. Both games will be webcast live by the Liberty Flames Sports Network (LFSN) and carried on ESPN+.
All-Time Series: Since NYU moved up from the Division II level and joined the ESCHL in 2017, the Flames hold a 6-2 advantage in the series. They split their first and last series with the Violets before and after winning all four meetings last season — the last three by 5-0 counts.
Liberty Scouting Report: Depth at all positions has allowed the Flames to emerge as frontrunners this season to contend for their fourth regular-season and tournament titles since joining the ESCHL in 2016. Even after head captain Devin Pierce ended his career mid-season and fellow forward and alternate captain Brock Thompson was sidelined by injury in the first game of last weekend's sweep of Rhode Island, Liberty showcased its offensive firepower with six players netting goals in a 6-0 win before having seven score in a 7-1 rout in the rematch.
The Flames feature eight players with at least 25 points, led by senior forward Quinn Ryan (17 goals, 33 assists), who ranks sixth in Division I with 50 points. He is followed by sophomore linemate Josh Fricks (21G, 23A), junior forward Jordan Bochinski (14G, 26A), and sophomore forward Arturas Laukaitis (15G, 22A). Three of Liberty's next five scoring leaders are defensemen — senior Garrett Nelson (fifth, 8G, 25A), freshman Colin Baird (seventh, 7G, 18A), and senior Jacob Fricks (ninth, 5G, 19A). Junior forward Cole Gammer (14G, 13A) ranks sixth and Thompson (14G, 11A) is tied for seventh.
"We believe in the depth on our team," Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said.
Between the pipes, after platooning freshman Cédric Le Sieur (11-1, 2.10 goals-against average, 90.7 save percentage and sophomore Tyler Myers (10-2, 2.30 GAA, 90.0 SP, two shutouts) throughout the first semester, Liberty introduced freshman Hunter Virostek (2-1, 1.67 GAA, 93.4 SP) into the rotation the past two weekends, giving him back-to-back starts against Rhode Island. The Rams only recorded 31 shots in the series, and Virostek shut them out in the opener before only allowing a third-period goal in the rematch.
New York Scouting Report: By contrast, the Violets, who have gone 1-6 (all against ESCHL opponents), since winning the first game of the series against Liberty on their home ice, only feature eight players with 10 or more points. Their attack is ignited by forwards Mac Brice (8G, 13A) and Scott Mulligan (5G, 10A) and defenseman James Long (3G, 12A).
In goal, Patrick Cavanaugh (6-5, 3.07 GAA, 91.6 SP) has played the majority of the time with backup support from Adam Salisbury (2-4, 4.37 GAA, 88.0 SP).
Coaches: Handy, who won his 400th game on Liberty's first "Star Wars Night" in 2018, has compiled an overall record of 455-184-29 since debuting as head coach at the Division II level in 2000. Chris Cosentino is in his 10th season at the NYU helm and third year coaching them at the DI level, where he has led the Violets to a 33-36-4 record after guiding them to a 139-66-8 mark as a DII team.
Junior forward Cole Gammer skates the puck around the corner as NYU players give chase.