DI Flames weather Whalers' second-period surge, net sweep
September 14, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
In a game plagued by 27 penalties and several minor skirmishes, Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team completed a two-game sweep of the Hampton Roads Junior "A" Whalers on Saturday afternoon at the LaHaye Ice Center, but it wasn't always pretty.
After sprinting out to a 4-0 lead midway through the first period, the Flames nearly let the sizeable advantage slip away before salvaging a 7-3 victory.
A day after posting a dominating 9-2 triumph in its season opener, Liberty allowed Hampton Roads to trim the deficit in half in the opening two and a half minutes of the second period with two goals in a span of 12 seconds. When Larry Adegoke skated from the left wing and fired a shot past Flames goalie Matt Pinel into the upper netting for a second power-play score, the Whalers had scaled Liberty's lead back to 4-3 with more than half the contest to go.
"One of the pillars of our team this year is discipline and we lost discipline," senior defender and assistant captain Jackson Kuhn said. "We had about six penalties in the second period (out of 14 for the game) and it's really hard to get going when you're taking penalties. Especially when you're up on a team, you want to keep that pace flying, so as soon as you slow it down you give them a chance to get back into it."
Fortunately, senior forward and team captain Andrew McCombe sparked the Flames' attack just 23 seconds later, pushing Liberty's lead back to two goals. He maneuvered through the left crease for a one-on-one with Hampton Roads goalie Chase Wilson and threaded the puck between his right pad and the left post. Then, two and a half minutes into the third period, Kuhn, who had opened the scoring with a goal assisted by Ryan Kerr just a minute and a half into the action, made it 6-3 when his slap shot from the left side of the blue line deflected off Wilson's stick into the back of the net.
"It was a textbook play," Kuhn said of his early goal. "It was really nice to see the guys using the point as an option and I just kind walked the line, avoided the forecheck coming at me and just shot it between his legs. It ended up going post on the short side and as a defenseman, those are the kind of goals you want to score from the blue line."
Kuhn's second score was set up by a second assist from Robert Ward, his fourth in two games.
Cam Bakker added the finishing touches to the triumph with a wrist shot from about the same spot set up by Charles Williams, who had also assisted Bram Erickson's first-period goal that put the Flames up 4-0.
"That was just a hard-working play down on the other end," Kuhn said of Erickson's score. "It was kind of a fumbled puck and he just didn't give up on the play and it ended up bouncing right to him and he banged it home."
Forwards Caleb Grow and Kyle Garcia had lifted Liberty to a 3-0 lead in the first three minutes after the opening faceoff with consecutive scores just 18 seconds apart, assisted by Ryley Egan and Chase Harris, respectively.
Liberty (2-0) prepares for its first road trip and ACHA season debut next Friday and Saturday at West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va.