Flames sweep Eagles with two third-period power-play goals
November 2, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Clinging to a one-goal lead on Eastern Michigan, Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team failed to extend its advantage on a series of five-on-three power plays early in the third period, Saturday night at the LaHaye Ice Center.
"When the power play was going, I was almost thinking, we've had too many power plays in a row," head coach Kirk Handy said after the Flames' 5-2 triumph, their seventh straight.
After the last of several slapshots taken by Liberty senior forward and captain Andrew McCombe from the high slot appeared to glance off the crossbar and catch the upper netting, but was ruled no goal, the Flames finally opened some breathing room playing five-on-four hockey.
With 7:34 remaining in regulation, Liberty put together a pretty passing combination from freshman forward Robert Ward on the left wing to sophomore forward Danny Logan at the left crease across to junior forward Ryley Egan in the right, where he finished for a 4-2 lead.
"The five-on-three (power plays) we struggled on, but we scored two five-on-four," Handy said. "I think the difference was we were able to get some traffic in front of the goalie, so he wasn't able to see it like he was maybe when we were in the five-on-three, playing more of the perimeter game. When we started to get some traffic in front of him, obviously, we were able to squeak a couple through."
Two minutes later, with sophomore defenseman Steven Bellew working the point, he sent a short feed to Ward who set up Cam Bakker for a wrist shot deep in the right circle that sneaked past Eagles goalie Andrew Duff for the final score.
"The goalie was down, so I figured I had to rip it by him," Bakker said. "It was pretty close until then. We couldn't capitalize on a few of our power plays, but then, we got the pucks through and they started to go in."
EMU, which is unranked, gave the Flames two tough tests on back-to-back nights with its grinding style of play. Liberty broke open a 1-1 game with three goals in the third for a 4-1 win Friday night.
"That's what they do best," Bakker said. "They just hang around, so we did what we could and finally pulled away at the end, which was nice."
The Eagles (6-9) actually scored first at the 11:29 mark of the first period when Kyle Astalos cleaned up the rebound of a shot by Bobby Gasser near the left post for a 1-0 lead.
But Liberty freshman forward Charles Williams finished two quality scoring chances in a span of three and a half minutes at the end of the first to put the Flames on top 2-1.
Junior forward Lindsay LeBlanc sent a short pass to freshman forward Brandon Mistal cutting through the left circle before Mistal threaded a pass to Williams in the right crease who slapped the puck into an empty net with Duff caught out of position.
With just more than a minute left in the first, Liberty senior defenseman Jackson Kuhn sparked the Flames' transition attack with a long outlet pass to Tyson Street on the right wing. He skated in before sending a short pass to Williams, who split two defenders and sent a shot from the left side of the right circle past Duff into the back of the net.
"He's dangerous around the net and he was able to put those pucks away pretty quick," Handy said of Williams, who scored two goals for the second time in three games. "They were nice shots, both of them."
Midway through the second period, with Liberty on the power play, Kuhn hit the right post on the rebound of a long shot between the circles by Egan. The Flames went back on the power play moments later, but again couldn't capitalize and Eastern Michigan tied it up on transition moments later when Gasser set up Adam Pinkowski for an open shot from the left circle.
Williams had a low slapshot blocked by the pads of Duff before playing the puck back to sophomore defenseman Brandon Cox on an odd-man rush moments later, when Cox finished a short shot from between the circles, lifting Liberty to a 3-2 lead with 3:37 left in the second.
"That's one guy who has played really well for us," Handy said of Cox. "He had the game-winner tonight and he made some good defensive plays and he was good for us on the penalty kill."
The Flames outshot EMU 46-26 for the contest with freshman goalie Matt Pinel making 24 saves to improve to 9-1.
"Pinel played really well," Handy said. "There were two or three or four shots down low and he's tracking the puck and it's encouraging for us. It's a lot better for us knowing we've got two goalies back there who can stop the puck consistently and both Blair (Bennett) and Matt have played really well."
Liberty (14-1) entertains the 2012 ACHA DI national champion Delaware Blue Hens next Friday and Saturday nights at LaHaye before concluding its 12-game homestand with a weekend series against Stony Brook Nov. 15-16.