Four-goal first period propels Lady Flames past Panthers
February 8, 2014 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's ACHA Division I women's hockey team picked up where it left off in Saturday afternoon's second game against Davenport University at the LaHaye Ice Center, scoring four times in the first period — as it had in the second period the night before — of a 4-0 victory over the Panthers.
The Lady Flames (14-8-4) completed the four-game season sweep of Davenport by getting another productive outing from the offensive line of freshman Marissa Graham, sophomore Carrie Jickling, and junior Sarah Stevenson, in her second game in action coming off a back injury.
The duo of Graham and Jickling capitalized on fastbreak opportunities to score three of the four first-period goals, one shorthanded on a two-on-none break with Stevenson in the penalty box.
"We work good together and seem to be able to find each other on the ice," Jickling said. "It's like natural chemistry. Our whole line seems to be clicking right now."
Jicking netted the game's first goal 3:18 into the action after taking the puck off the stick of Graham near her own blue line. She weaved through Davenport defenders down the middle of the ice before finishing with a wrist shot top shelf past Panthers freshman goalie Lauren Yomantas.
Sophomore forward Catharine Burrell, who returned from an injury of her own last month, set up Liberty's second goal by threading a beautiful pass from along the back boards through the left crease to junior forward Nikki McCombe in front of the net. Yomantas blocked McCombe's initial shot but she redirected the rebound with her skate, sliding it under the leg of the goalie for a 2-0 lead with 13:40 left in the period.
The Lady Flames stretched the advantage to 3-0 on a counterattack breakaway when Graham stole the puck and started the two-on-zero rush, feeding a short pass between the circles to Jickling who put the puck into the upper netting.
"That was a really selfless play on her part," Jickling said of Graham's assist.
Jickling later returned the favor on another breakaway with 5:05 left in the first, putting a backhanded shot on goal on another transition attack which bounced off Yomantas' pads right to Graham for the open-net follow, capping the scoring.
"Our special teams, especially our penalty kill, are pretty strong," Jickling said. "It's just great to be able to shut teams down, and even score on them, when they have a man advantage."
Lady Flames sophomore goalie Kristina Toppazzini wasn't pressured often, but when she was put to the test, she was an impenetrable shield in front of the net, shutting out the Panthers just 15 hours after junior Chantal Lischynski limited them to one power-play goal.
"They're both right up there and ready to play," Jickling said of Toppazzini and Lischynski, who are platooning in place of injured junior Sam Rupp."It's great to have that, knowing your goalies are like that. You can count on either of them to get the job done."
Liberty, which concluded its ACHA regular-season schedule with the weekend series, returns to the ice Feb. 23 for a home rematch with the Tri-City (N.C.) Selects, who defeated and tied the Lady Flames at LaHaye Sept. 21-22.
Currently ranked No. 7, Liberty hopes to move up in the fourth and final ACHA DI poll, which will be released in late February, determining seedings for the March 13-16 ACHA DI National Championships. The Lady Flames are riding a season-best five-game winning streak which started with a 4-3 upset of Miami of Ohio, the No. 1 team in the nation.
"We've just got to get ready for nationals and come out strong and build on the things that we've learned these last couple weekends," Jickling said.
Images by Joel Coleman/Liberty University