Oct 3, 2006

LU Hockey slashes its way to two more wins

by Steve Clark

Before the season, Head Coach Kirk Handy of the Liberty University men’s hockey team said that he really felt that he had a team that was ready to take the next step by going to the ACHA level of Division 1 Hockey. This weekend, his team took some huge steps forward as they beat Robert Morris College twice.

“We talked all week with our guys about the need to play disciplined and aggressive hockey,” said Handy.

Despite last week’s blowout wins against Division II opponent University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Handy saw that his team was going to have to rise to the occasion against Robert Morris, who was ranked #14 in the nation at the Division 1 ACHA level.

According to Handy, he saw some good things and not so good things from his team’s efforts this weekend.

“I really felt in our Friday game that we really only played 20 minutes of absolutely great hockey. We were fortunate that we went up 2-0 in the first period of our Friday game, because Robert Morris really stepped things up in the next two periods and we had to have some huge saves from our Friday goaltender, Dalton Stoltz.”

Getting even more specific, Handy noted, “Our coaches have been blown away by this team’s discipline. It’s one thing to talk with these guys practice after practice, but to see them go out there and implement those principles, it’s just phenomenal to see the work ethic and the adjustments that these players are making, with the season being so new.”

When asked what types of adjustments the team was making, Handy offered, “Well, one of the areas we really felt we took advantage of on Friday night was with the new obstruction rules. Robert Morris came out trying to exploit those rules and our guys played very level, disciplined hockey, which led to a huge advantage for us in penalty minutes.”

“I believe Robert Morris got hit with 45 minutes of penalty minutes to our 12, which allowed us to have 14 Power Play opportunities to their six. That really opened up our offense quite a bit, and while we didn’t have as many quality shots on goal as I would have liked, to be able to have 34 shots on goal tonight made a huge difference for our club.”

“We knew we needed to play at a much higher level for a more sustained period of time for us to be successful on Saturday.

“We know we have the talent to beat Robert Morris, but Robert Morris (is) a very aggressive, hard-nosed team and we’re going to have to play much more consistently to come out with another win.”

Saturday’s game turned out to be another game in the Dave Semenyna coming-out party. A freshman defenseman, Semenyna had been singled out by Handy for his quality play in Friday’s game, scoring a goal and an assist.

Saturday’s game was no different, as Semenyna had another goal and played outstanding defense, helping lead Liberty to a 3-1 win over a very gritty and aggressive Robert Morris team.

Liberty out-shot Robert Morris 54-23 and scored an empty net goal in the last minute of the game to seal the victory.

Handy had some very positive things to say about his team’s efforts.

“We really felt like we took a huge step forward towards becoming a team that is maturing into a D-I team,” he said. “We really made a decisive statement this weekend to be able to beat the number 14 team in the country at their place twice.

“We’re not just some new hockey team that is playing timid. We’re making some noise at the Division-I level and we’re real excited about our team right now.”

When asked what his impressions of the Saturday game were, Handy said, “We knew going into tonight that Robert Morris was going to play a lot more aggressively and it turned out to be a real battle all night.

“ When the going got tough, our guys really stood up as men and as a team, it was a huge boost to our team’s character. Some guys that really stepped up for us tonight were Mike Binnie, our goalie. He had a lot of key saves, including a save on a penalty shot, and he stopped several shots when Robert Morris was on a 5-on-3 power play.

“Other than that, you have a guy like Zach Bowman, a winger for us. He stepped up big all weekend just playing very gritty, solid hockey, winning possessions around the boards for us. Of course, what can you say about Dave Semenyna? For a freshman defenseman to play as much as he did and be a factor on both ends of the ice...his play really gave us a huge boost.”

Liberty’s next games are against Davenport, a team they beat last year in the D-II semi-finals, but who this year just beat Lindenwood, the number five ranked team in the nation in D-I. “We’ve got some tough games coming up, but we’re looking forward to the challenge and also the fan support of being home,” Handy said.


Contact Steve Clark at sclark3@liberty.edu.


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