Flames stage dramatic 3-2 victory over Mountaineers in OT
February 15, 2014 | Lynchburg, Va.
When Liberty University sophomore forward D.J. Dinnison's shot from the point ripped past West Virginia senior goalie Eric Schaetzle into the upper netting with 9:44 left in the first period, Flames fans who brought more than 650 stuffed animals to the LaHaye Ice Center showered the arena with their furry friends in support of Gleaning for the World's Teddy Bear Brigade.
Two hours later, after senior forward Andrew McCombe shoveled the rebound of a shot by freshman forward Robert Ward out of a scrum and into the net, the close to 2,000 fans still on hand erupted in nearly as wild a celebration of the 3-2 overtime victory.
The No. 23 Mountaineers, who have already qualified for the ACHA Division I National Championships after clinching the Collegiate Hockey Mid-America regular-season title, were out to prove they belong in that tournament by upsetting the No. 4 Flames.
"Credit to West Virginia, those guys played solid tonight and we didn't have our A game," Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said.
Junior forward Lindsay LeBlanc added: "They're a hard-working team and they came to play this weekend and best of luck to them in the nationals."
Liberty outshot WVU 46-21, but didn't generate the quality shots needed through the first two periods.
"There were times in the game where we were right there and there were times in the game where we were just kind of throwing pucks on net without a purpose," Handy said. "It was kind of a see-saw effort where the effort wasn't there consistently. We were turning the puck over a lot tonight and we weren't intentionally going out there and making things happen the way we needed to to be successful."
Flames sophomore defenseman Steven Bellew picked up a quick slashing penalty and the Mountaineers tied the game with a power-play goal just 1:40 after Dinnison's opening score. Senior defenseman Dylan Coffey finished off a short pass from junior forward Joe Baker in the right crease.
Then in the second period, WVU kept the Flames' offense in check and capitalized on a turnover deep in the defensive zone to score the go-ahead goal. Senior forward Dusty Campbell slid through the slot to pick up the loose puck and in the same motion shot it top shelf past Liberty senior goalie Blair Bennett while falling down.
"We weren't too happy with our play in the first 40 minutes and we just regrouped in the second intermission and said forget about it and go out and play Liberty hockey and we came out with a win," LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc trailed McCombe as he skated down along the left boards into the corner six and a half minutes into the third period. He deked past a defender before leaving a beautiful backhanded dish for LeBlanc, who cleaned it up from his favorite spot near the left end line.
"That was a big goal from Lindsay off an elite pass from Andrew McCombe," Handy said. "It was a fantastic play, a behind-the-back pass and a great read by (LeBlanc). He had a good third period."
LeBlanc said teammate McCombe made a great play, driving wide behind the net. "He just fooled the goalie and I was just in the right place at the right time and we tied it up there."
LeBlanc and McCombe had a couple other near misses throughout the rest of the third period, when the Flames generated plenty of momentum heading into overtime, setting up McCombe's game-winner in sudden death.
"Our response in the third period tonight was excellent," Handy said. "The goal that was scored at the end there was traffic to the net, doing things the way we wanted to do them from the start of the game. We got away from it a bit, but at the end of the day, our response was good at the end. Good teams find ways to win and we found a way to win tonight and that's an important building block going into next weekend, the last game of the year heading into nationals."
Liberty will host the Richmond Generals Junior "A" team next Saturday at 7 p.m. to end the regular season before finding out where it will be seeded in the ACHA DI National Championships when the final rankings are released on Feb. 21.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer
Images by Liz Benson/Liberty University
Images by Ty Hester/Liberty University