DIII Flames on regional playoff bubble after tough losses
February 8, 2014 | Abingdon, Md.
Liberty University's ACHA Division III men's hockey team split two games on each of the past three weekend road trips, putting its top-10 ranking in jeopardy for the upcoming ACHA DIII Region Tournament.
For the Flames (16-5), their road struggles started Jan. 24 with a 2-0 loss at George Mason, a team it outshot 32-15.
"We had bunches of opportunities put couldn't put them in the net," Liberty Head Coach Tristan Chambers said. "Then, we played Salisbury State University the next night and beat them 15-2. We recovered from the night before and were able to finish our chances, but it was still a rough weekend."
Last weekend, the Flames traveled to play two teams at opposite sides of North Carolina — Blue Ridge Collegiate Hockey Association (BRCHA) South Division rivals UNC Charlotte and UNC Wilmington. They staged a miracle comeback from a 4-0 deficit to beat Charlotte 7-6 in overtime before being blown out by UNCW, 11-6.
The Flames got one goal back in the third period against Charlotte before pulling their goalkeeper and tying it up with 56 seconds left on a goal by senior forward Kyle Burman, Liberty's second-leading scorer.
With 6.6 seconds remaining in regulation, the Flames were assessed a five-minute penalty, that would have essentially lasted for the entire extra period. However, senior forward and leading scorer Brandon Cockburn netted the game-winner shorthanded with 2:28 to go.
Liberty then played at UNCW with two key player serving disqualifications for fighting the night before at Charlotte.
This past Friday night, Liberty lost to UNC Charlotte, 6-4, in the first round of the BRCHA Tournament before rebounding to beat East Carolina University 6-4, with Cockburn netting two goals in both games.
"Today, we came out ready to play," Chambers said Saturday. "We were up 3-1 in the second and they tied it up with goals at the 10:59 and 10:17 marks of the second period."
Cockburn then netted the go-ahead goal with 3:33 left.
"It was essentially for third place in the BRCHA's tournament," Chambers said. "We ended up second in the regular season, which came down to that game between us and UNCW."
The Flames, who rose to No. 7 in the third ACHA DIII South Region rankings, will find out if they remained in the top 10 and qualified for the South Region Tournament this coming Friday.
Sunday's third win of the year over ECU, which was No. 13, could keep the Flames on the bubble. They have already beaten No. 8 Christopher Newport University. But the lopsided loss to No. 11 UNCW and the playoff setback against No. 10 Charlotte could drop them out.
"I hope we can squeak in at No. 10 and still make regionals," Chambers said. " I think we have the team to be there, but it's in the hands of the voting board. It's going to be close. It's kind of up in the air. I don't know what's going to happen."