A breakaway goal late in the second period by junior forward Christian Garland sparked a 7-1 victory by the Liberty University men’s D1 hockey team in the first round of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) tournament vs. John Carroll University Friday, March 1.
However, the win was short- lived when Liberty was defeated by the Ohio Bobcats, 7-4, in the second round of the tournament.
With the game tied 1-1 late in the second period, sophomore goalie Clayton Brown made two saves to preserve the lead for the Flames.
Liberty’s Lindsay LeBlanc won the ensuing faceoff after Brown’s save. Teammate Scott Morongell chipped a pass over the defenders’ heads to a fast-charging Garland, who was able to sneak the puck through the goaltender’s five-hole to score the game-winning goal.
“The Garland goal came about after a huge save from Clayton Brown,” Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said. “The key (to the game) was some huge saves by Brown that kept us in the game.”
The Flames controlled the play throughout the game, but Garland’s goal late in the second period helped ignite the Flames offensive attack in the third period.
“The team knew that the second goal would be a turning point in the game,” Garland said. “It was only a matter of time before we got it with our dominance during both the first and second periods.”
Although they controlled most of the game, the 13th seeded Flames were not without adversity as the 20th seeded John Carroll Blue Streaks capitalized off an unfortunate bounce to claim a 1-0 lead just 3:30 into the game.
“We knew from the get-go that they would come out strong in the first,” Garland said. “We eliminated many chances early, and they came out with a goal off of an unlucky bounce for us.”
However, the Flames bounced back with a goal of their own in the first period, as sophomore defenseman Cam Bakker fired a wrist shot past the Blue Streaks goaltender with 11:46 left in the first period.
The Flames continued to create numerous chances throughout the first period, but they were unable to add another goal despite a staggering 23-7 edge in shots.
Handy and Garland both reiterated the point that sticking to their game-plan, continuing to shoot the puck and not panicking were major factors in keeping their composure.
“We knew we were fine and we were going to score, so it was just to stay calm and play our game,” Liberty senior forward Rick Turner said. “It was frustrating at times, seeming like we had shot after shot, but we knew it would come to us.”
The second period was similar to the first, as the Flames continued to outshoot the Blue Streaks, leading to Garland’s game-winning goal.
“The key play was Garland’s breakaway,” Turner said. “(The goal) put us up one, and then the floodgates opened up for us, and we put a lot in the back of the net from then on.”
Garland’s goal would not have been possible without an individual effort by Brown, who stopped 26 of 27 shots he faced on the night.
“Playing with a goalie in the net who you know you can trust to make saves during important times during the game is huge — especially at a tournament like this,” Garland said.
The Flames carried that 2-1 lead into the third period, where they finally broke away by scoring five goals.
Turner scored the Flames third goal of the night on a power play just 2:19 into the third period.
“I was in the slot and (Andrew) McCombe hit me with a nice pass,” Turner said. “I just fired it low glove because he was pretty good high glove all game.”
Turner’s goal early in the third period was the start of an offensive explosion by the Flames, as they would quickly add four more.
“The team was confident in our ability to score,” Garland said “We knew that once we took a two-goal lead, it would take the wind out of our opponent’s sails.”
Just a few minutes after giving the Flames a 3-1 lead, Turner added another goal for the Flames, and the rout was officially on.
Andrew McCombe, Caleb Grow and Scott Morongell each added a goal in the third period for the Flames to highlight the five-goals, which tied with the Flames top scoring period of the season.
“The third period, we played a bit harder, and it paid off,” Turner said. “Once we netted a few, the floodgates opened up, and one after another kept