Flames recover from loss at ASU, win first game at Arizona
January 17, 2014 | Tucson, Ariz.
Despite capitalizing on only one of its five power-play opportunities, Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team was efficient as usual at even strength, Friday night in a 5-2 triumph at Arizona's Tucson Convention Center. The Flames (22-5) scored three times in five-on-five hockey and their final goal in four-on-four.
"(The offensive line of Danny) Logan, Bram (Erickson), and (Ryan) Kerr played really well five-on-five for us tonight," Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said. "We were able to get all four lines in the game and be able to do things we like to do as a team."
The Flames, No. 4 in this week's ACHA DI national rankings, outshot the No. 13 Wildcats by a slim 46-45 margin, but were more effective in finishing around the cage.
Senior forward and captain Andrew McCombe, who missed Thursday night's 3-2 overtime loss at No. 1 Arizona State University due to a delay in his flight to Phoenix, recorded the go-ahead score early in a three-goal second period and converted the Flames' lone power-play goal for a 3-1 advantage.
"It was good to be able to bounce back and win the game tonight," Handy said. "We took another step forward as a team. I thought we didn't quite have our skates under us in the first period, but we were able to stay disciplined and capitalize on the power play."
Freshman forward Robert Ward, Liberty's second-leading scorer, assisted the second goal by McCombe (who ranks third in points), before netting the next one himself to pad the Flames' lead to 4-1 at the end of the period.
"Both Andrew and Ward had big nights for us tonight," Handy said. "They're a big part of our team and it was great to have them back."
Handy said the turning point in the game, besides McCombe's power-play goal, was when Liberty killed off the Wildcats' 5-on-3 second-period power play with senior defenseman Jackson Kuhn and junior forward Christian Garland — two of the Flames' better penalty killers — in the box.
Sophomore forwards DJ Dinnison and Bram Erickson started and ended Liberty's scoring in the first and third periods, respectively.
Freshman goalie Matt Pinel, who gave up all four goals in a 4-0 loss to the Wildcats on Oct. 11, made 43 saves, many of the spectacular variety with his diving and lunging efforts.
"Matt Pinel played a real solid game for us," Handy said. "He made some big saves for us and had a real solid night. He played well and (freshman defenseman) Chase Harris had a real solid game for us on the back end, his best game as a Flame so far."
Freshman forward Grant Nicholson and senior forward Ansel Ivens-Anderson scored the lone two goals for the Wildcats (12-16), who had split a two-game series earlier this season at Liberty.
Handy was encouraged by the way Liberty has responded after losses to Stony Brook and ASU early in the new year.
"Team discipline both last night and tonight has been a lot better than at earlier stretches in the season," Handy said. "Arizona is a solid team and it played well.
"We've played two good games back-to-back and we're going to have to be better (Saturday) night. There's still things we've got to refine. We need to play a full 60 minutes of hockey rather than taking shifts off here and there. We have to make sure we're playing hard and backchecking hard."