Panthers thrashed in home finale
Three seniors leave the LaHaye Ice Center victorious after the Flames defeat Pittsburgh in final home game
Liberty University’s men’s Division II hockey team (24-7) capped off its regular season by defeating the Pittsburgh University Panthers 5-3 at LaHaye Ice Center on senior night Saturday, Feb. 1.
Both teams struggled offensively to start the first period until Liberty senior Brad Docksteader scored his 36th goal of the season at the 12:47 mark in the first period. His goal gave the Flames a 1-0 lead. The Panthers responded quickly with a goal by senior Mark Clifford. The Flames scored once again at the 9:44 mark in the first. This time, Devon Docksteader, who is second on the team in scoring, found the back of the net. At the end of the first period, Liberty had a 2-1 lead and maintained it throughout the game.
“We outshot them dramatically in the first two periods,” Head Coach Chris Lowes said. “Yeah, we had a good first period. (I) thought the energy was good. We were the better team overall.”
The second period was a dominant one for Liberty. The team continued to outshoot Pittsburgh and eventually scored two goals, one each by sophomore forwards Jeff Boschman and Josh King. After Boschman’s goal, the Panthers made a goalie change around the five-minute mark in the second period. Freshman Michael Mina entered the net and only allowed two goals, including King’s lone goal and one from senior forward Bobby Cervone in the third period. Throughout the third period, Mina made a number of impressive saves, including important stops during a 5-on-3 penalty kill and a 3-on1 breakaway opportunity for the Flames.
In the third period, the Panthers cut Liberty’s three-goal lead to one with goals by sophomore defensemen Sean Brawley and Clifford. Pittsburgh’s newfound confidence and momentum led them to several potential game-tying shot attempts. But sophomore goalie Cary Byron ended the final 14 minutes with a shutout. With 10:03 remaining, Cervone’s goal was the dagger that ended Pittsburgh’s chances of a comeback. All momentum had switched back over to Liberty, and the Flames defense shut down any chance of a comeback.
Liberty has finished its regular season play and is now in preparation for the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association (MACHA) tournament. The Flames are confident about their chances in the tournament, especially with the production of the Docksteader brothers and goalie play from Byron and sophomore goalie Nick Devine.
“We really relied on (Brad and Devon Docksteader) for offensive production,” Lowes said. “… They just have a nose for the net. They’ve been consistent all year. … They are definitely a big part of our success.”
Lowes was pleased with the consistency and efficiency his team showed in the victory in the final game before the MACHA tournament. Lowes said that the team used this game as an opportunity to “fine tune.”
“We’re excited (for the tournament),” Lowes said. “We’re going in as a No. 1 seed, and we’re hoping to have some solid performances.”