Saturday, October 25, 2014

Panthers iced in rivalry matchup

Liberty captures its 10th win in 11 games, sweeping Davenport during Homecoming at the LaHaye Ice Center

TENACITY — Stephen Bellow (96) gains possession of the puck during a match against the Panthers over the weekend. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

TENACITY — Stephen Bellow (96) gains possession of the puck during a match against the Panthers over the weekend. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

The Liberty University men’s Division I hockey team defeated the Davenport Panthers twice during homecoming weekend Friday Oct. 18 and Saturday Oct. 19.

Liberty 2, Davenport 1

In the first game, Liberty defeated Davenport 2-1.

Despite the absence of key players, such as Lindsey LeBlanc and Matt Sherry, the Flames were able to prevail, largely thanks to the efforts of Blair Bennett in net.

“(Bennett) really stepped up tonight and displayed great defensive abilities against the Panthers,” Flames center Charles Williams said. “It was a definite fight, because we were missing our biggest players on both ends of the ice (Sherry and LeBlanc).”

Midway through the first period, junior forward Ryley Egan scored a breakaway goal, sliding the puck past Panthers goaltender Phil Graveline to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.

D.J. Dinnison pushed the Flames lead to 2-0 with a goal just over six minutes into the second period.

With just three minutes left in the second period, Panthers junior forward Luke McCarthy scored the Panthers lone goal on an assist from junior forward Robert Kleiman, making the game 2-1.

“It was great to get the advantage against Davenport tonight,” Egan said. “It will give us the strength and confidence to secure the cup and show our rivals that we mean business this season.”

Liberty 3, Davenport 2

Liberty capped off an exciting weekend by winning the Blue and Gray Cup with a 3-2 victory against Davenport.

In the game, Liberty carried over its sharp play from Friday night, managing to control the puck for most of the game.

“We definitely had the momentum going our way, and we are doing things right, being able to get the puck deep and create scoring chances,” Head Coach Kirk Handy said. “I thought our team looked good.”

Liberty started the scoring quickly in the first period with a goal from Bram Erickson. Erickson also scored the second goal of the game for the Flames after batting a deflected puck out of the air and into the net. Lindsay LeBlanc capped off the scoring for the Flames when he tapped the puck into the net off a rebound.

In addition to explosive offense, both teams played physical hockey, resulting in players reaching their boiling points at the end of the first period. A fight broke out between the two teams, resulting in numerous ejections.

In the third period, Liberty got off to a fast start, drawing two penalties from Davenport. However, the Flames could not capitalize on their opportunities, despite an edge in possession.

Four minutes into the second period, Liberty sent the puck flying at a wide-open net. However, Graveline came out of nowhere and smacked the puck away before it could cross the line.

Davenport finally put a score on the board late in the second period when Tyler Layle took the puck down the ice and beat Bennett on his left side. Davenport continued to play solid hockey from that point on, creating turnovers and maintaining a good share of the puck. Davenport’s efforts paid off late in the third period when the team scored its second goal of the night to bring them within one.

Davenport continued to apply pressure late in the third period, pulling its goalie early to allow for an extra skater. Despite the Panthers late offensive burst, Liberty’s defense was too much to handle, and the buzzer finally sounded with Liberty taking the game, 3-2.

Liberty’s next game will be at home against Rochester College Oct. 25 at 7:00 p.m.

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