DI Flames' refueled offense outfires Whalers A team 9-2
September 13, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team came out flying in Friday night's season opener against Hampton Roads' Junior "A" team, scoring five goals in the first 15 minutes of a 9-2 victory at the LaHaye Ice Center.
After starting last season by harpooning the Whalers by 9-1 and 9-3 scores, the Flames once again made short work of their visitors from Norfolk, Va., members of the United States Premier Hockey League.
"We scored some early goals and got rolling from there," Liberty head coach Kirk Handy said. "Shots were 12-12 in the first period and to come out of that up 5-1, that's not going to happen every night. We were firing on all cylinders and were able to score some timely goals."
Liberty outshot Hampton Roads 49-22 for the game with freshman Matt Pinel making 20 saves in his first start in goal for the Flames.
Two of the night's prettiest goals were netted by Liberty senior captain Andrew McCombe and set up by junior forward Lindsay LeBlanc. McCombe capped a breakaway three and a half minutes after the opening faceoff by flicking a left-handed wrist shot just under the crossbar.
"LeBlanc made a great play, he kind of drew that defense with him and I got to put it upstairs," McCombe said.
He later capped the Flames' first-period scoring by taking a short pass from freshman forward Brandon Mistal out of the left corner, skating behind the cage and working a give-and-go with LeBlanc. McCombe came out from behind the net to finish LeBlanc's return feed, hooking a point-blank shot around the right pipe.
"I've been playing with him since my freshman year, so it's been three years now and we just seem to find each other all over the place, so it's good," LeBlanc said. "We've been working on that in practice. Definitely, we like to use behind the net, go on goal like that, make a pass and put it in."
"That play, it's pretty simple, but it works really well," McCombe added.
Holding a commanding 5-1 lead after the first period, the Flames netted two more goals in the opening minute and a half of the second, the first on a slapshot by Cam Bakker off an assist from Danny Logan on a power play. They added two more in a span of 45 seconds later in the period, with Tyson Street going top shelf on an unassisted approach shot to push Liberty's lead to 9-1.
Ryley Egan tallied two goals off assists from freshman forward Robert Ward, the first early in the first period and eighth at the eight-minute mark of the second.
"Ward's really creative," Handy said. "We'd like to see him shoot the puck a little more, but he's been really creative for us."
Jackson Kuhn scored Liberty's third goal off assists from Matt Sherry and LeBlanc before Christian Garland converted a breakaway steal at mid-ice by sneaking his one-on-one shot under the pads of Whalers' goalie Taylor Brost.
"Timely goal again, short-handed and he buries it," Handy said.
Kuhn later got his second score off a short assist from Charles Williams on a two-on-one rush through the right crease.
"McCombe and Kuhn, two of our captains, had great games and that's the way they're supposed to lead," Handy said. "It was a good balance of production amongst all four lines."
McCombe said the Flames were eager to get the season underway after plenty of preseason preparation time.
"You can only practice so much," McCombe said. "We were happy to get out there and finally get a game under our belt. It's good to get out there and see how your line combinations play in a game together. The guys were really anxious to get out there and I think we played well. In a game like that, you want to try to do as many good things as you can, create good habits because those habits will be with you for the rest of the season."
The Flames meet the Whalers in a rematch Saturday afternoon at LaHaye, when the puck drops at 3 p.m.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer