Flames ousted from tourney
Liberty falls in the second round to James Madison in OT
Liberty University forward Chad Docksteader placed a perfect shot behind the Radford University goaltender to clinch the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference (BRHC) first-round victory over the Highlanders, 4-3. However, Liberty was downed by James Madison University 4-3 in overtime.
Throughout the evening, the Flames DIII hockey team looked sluggish and was having trouble getting into the offensive end, thanks to Radford’s strong and stingy defense.
“They (Radford) weren’t going to roll over on us,” Head Coach Tristian Chambers said.
Seven minutes into the game, the Flames finally broke the defense when captain Brandon Cockburn tucked in a loose rebound. Radford answered back when a clearing shot passed by goaltender John Hyland, tying the game, 1-1. The Highlanders took advantage on a power play in the final moments of the game as Nick Peters slapped one home, giving Radford the 2-1 intermission lead.
It only took five minutes for Radford to strike a loose puck behind Hyland, taking a 3-1 lead. Liberty forward Kevin Serapigella scored a short-handed breakway over the shoulder of Radford goaltender Bobby Burke.
“The whole time I was skating toward the goal, I thought to myself, ‘Don’t miss,’” Serapigella said.
The Flames then tied the game with eight minutes remaining in regulation. Once the overtime period commenced, freshman John Hyland saved shot after shot from a relentless Radford attack. After a scoreless overtime period, the game eventually went to a shootout. Hyland continued to save shots, allowing Docksteader to tuck in the game-winning goal.
Liberty’s next challenge was division leader and arch-rival James Madison University. Having lost the two regular season matches, nothing would have been better than sending the Dukes home, but unfortunately, Sam Stone and JMU had other ideas.
The period began with two early goals by Mitch Allen and Stones’ first goal, giving the Dukes a 2-0 advantage. Liberty erased that lead in the final five minutes of the first period, when Chris Guerri scored two of his own, tying up the score heading into the first intermission of play.
The second period was dominated by the Flames, but an impressive stand by JMU goaltender Alex Santoliquido kept Liberty at bay. Forward Josh Klakring broke down the wall when he tucked in a loose rebound, giving the Flames a 3-2 lead. However, things began to spiral downward in the closing minutes of the second period, as Liberty captain Brandon Cockburn suffered a leg injury after falling awkwardly into the boards.
In the third period, Liberty held on to a 3-2 lead. However, a costly penalty in the final three minutes led to an Allen power play goal, his second of the night, which tied the game at 3-3 and sent it into overtime. Unlike Radford, the Dukes had strong momentum heading into the extra period, and despite a spectacular effort by John Hyland, Stone and JMU ended the Flames season on a shot over Hyland’s shoulder. The Liberty Flames finish with a record of 12-3-1.