Flames sweep Warriors after second-period scoring frenzy
October 26, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Recharged by the return of senior forward and captain Andrew McCombe and sophomore forward Bram Erickson, who served suspensions for Friday's first game, Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team showcased its explosiveness on offense in the second period of Saturday's rematch with Rochester College, a 7-1 rout.
Both forwards distributed assists and all four of the Flames' offensive lines produced goals against the Warriors (4-7-0-2), a first-year ACHA DI program. Liberty (12-1) got much better penetration through Rochester's defensive zone than it had Friday night, when it relied too much on shots from the perimeter. Their seven goals padded the Flames' offensive stats for the new computer-generated ACHA DI rankings, in which they debuted at No. 7 this past week.
"We're not worried about the rankings," Liberty freshman forward Charles Williams said. "We've just got to keep battling to keep the train rolling. Every line was really clicking tonight and that's what we need for us to win games. We came from behind in both games and it was a great sweep."
As they had in Friday night's opener, the Flames got off to a slow start and were held scoreless through the first period. Rochester, meanwhile, struck quickly, with forward Josh Foster slipping a shot from the left slot under the pads of freshman goalie Matt Pinel just 20 seconds after the opening faceoff.
But it was only a matter of time before Liberty's offense came to life, and when it did, the floodgates opened wide. The Flames scored three times in a two-and-a-half-minute spurt early in the second period and punched in two more goals in the final two minutes of the stanza.
Williams leveled the score at 1-1 by slamming home Erickson's spectacular assist from behind the left side of the cage. Erickson took a short pass from Brandon Mistal behind the net and spotted Williams posting up in the right crease, where he fed him the puck for the point-blank putaway.
"That's a play we've been working on in practice and we executed it to a T," Williams said. "It was on the power play and Bram was behind the net and he saw me and it was a great pass. It was great for the team, one of those goals we knew we needed to change the momentum of the game."
Williams netted the go-ahead goal moments later from along the boards near the right circle. He sent the puck toward Lindsay LeBlanc in the left crease and it deflected off the stick of Rochester goalie Brenden Kruckenberg into the top left shelf for a 2-1 advantage.
"It was a fluky type of goal, but it's good to be lucky sometimes," Williams said. "I was trying to go back-door to Lindsay and it hit off the goalie's stick into the upper netting."
Then, at the 13:05 mark, McCombe took advantage of a two-on-one situation out front, distributing a cross-crease pass to Ryley Egan who lifted a wrist shot into the upper right corner of the net to make it 3-1.
"When you've got a guy like McCombe working in the open ice in a two-on-one, he has great poise with the puck and he made a great pass to Egan who ended up burying it the net," Williams said. "That was a great finish and a big momentum boost as well."
Sophomore forward Kyle Garcia extended the lead to 4-1 by poking the rebound of a shot by Tyson Street past Kruckenburg as he was tripped up by a defender in front of the cage with 2:01 left in the second period. Liberty capped a five-goal second period with 9.1 seconds to go when Mistal avoided a check from a Warrior defender and deftly deflected a slap shot taken by Williams from the top of the left circle around Kruckenburg into the right side of the net.
The revived Flames maintained their intensity through the third period, when Friday starter Zakk Olvin replaced Kruckenburg in Rochester's goal. Liberty widened its lead to 6-1 at the 17:22 mark on DJ Dinnison's laser from the top of the left circle, launched a split second before being hit by a Warrior player. Three and a half minutes later, Danny Logan gathered a loose puck from Erickson in the right crease, turned and fired a short wrist shot inside the right pipe as Dinnison closed in on the cage.
For the game, the Flames outshot the Warriors 45-21 with Pinel recording 20 saves. At 8-1, Pinel ranks first among rookie goalies in ACHA DI in wins and third in goals-against average.
Liberty returns to LaHaye at 7 next Friday and Saturday nights for two games against Eastern Michigan.