Thursday, July 24, 2014

Clutch in the preseason

The Lady Flames clinch victory in the final seconds against the Hamilton Hawks

With 23.7 second left in regulation, Liberty Lady Flames forward Sarah Stevenson battled her way through two defenders and slapped in the game-winning goal from the right wing against the Hamilton Hawks, giving Liberty a 2-1 victory.

Last-second heroics — Sarah Stevenson (11) scored the final goal against Hamilton, giving Liberty a 2-1 win. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

“We were a little bit slow, the ice was slow,” Lady Flames Head Coach Paul Bloomfield said. “We struggled a little bit, but we were lucky we pulled that goal off in the last 30 seconds. That sort of ended it the way we needed to.”

The exhibition match was the first action the Lady Flames saw since coming up short in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) championship game against Minnesota Golden Gophers.

During the 2013 season, Liberty finished second in the ACHA with a 31-3 record.

“I’m excited for this year to see what happens … ” Fischer said, “I think if we put enough fight in us and work hard on the ice and off ice, I think we can do it. Instead of coming out second, we’ll come out on top this year.”

Bloomfield and his players welcomed back former Lady Flame and current Hawks assistant coach Brooke Harris. In 2011, Harris was team captain under Bloomfield.

“She’s a good kid and was captain of our team for two years, and it’s always good to see (players) come back,” Bloomfield said.

Throughout most of the first period, Liberty came out sluggish and gave up a goal with 11:44 left before intermission. Hamilton maintained possession of the puck for most of the period.

However, the Lady Flames answered and tied the game 1-1.

“It’s just the first game,” Bloomfield said. ”The first period is always tough, trying to get everybody figured out, there’s always butterflies and jitters. That’s why it’s just an exhibition game. It’s good to get everybody good and going.”

The game remained deadlocked at 1-1 throughout the second period. The Lady Flames were unable to capitalize on Hawks turnovers, one of which led to a 2-on-1 breakaway that ended with a save from the Hamilton goalie. Although Liberty’s offense began to pick up, the Lady Flames were unable to put the puck in the back of the net.

“It takes a while to get used to everybody’s style, and I think as the game went along it progressed in our favor,” Lady Flames senior captain Courtney Fischer said.

As a team, Liberty was 0-2 on the power play. Consistent play from both goalies attributed to
a defensive setting.

“We’ve lost a couple of girls and a couple of recruits I had coming in didn’t come,” Bloomfield said. “I think we’re strong. The two recruits that did come are really good players, and they will benefit the team, but until we actually get everybody on the ice and see how chemistry works and everything, I think we’re alright. But we’re going to have to wait and see how our season comes together.”

Liberty begins its season when it hosts the Raleigh Tri-City Selects Sept. 21 at 6 p.m., where the Lady Flames will look to extend their 14-game home
winning streak.

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