Nov 11, 2008

Way leads the way as Liberty takes two from West Chester

by William Armstrong

When talking to the coaching staff and players for either team, Liberty or West Chester University, defense was the constant surrounding this weekend’s two-game hockey series at the LaHaye Ice Center.

“We’re trying to play stronger defense, playing smart in our end and in neutral ice,” junior Dave Semenyna said.

Freshman goalie Colin Way and the Liberty defense shined as the team defeated the Golden Rams 2-1 in both games.

Semenyna also played a vital role, providing staunch defense and scoring three of the four Flames goals over the course of the series.

“You don’t get many chances, so you have to put them away when you get them,” Semenyna said.

Semenyna’s last goal marked Liberty’s 30th power play goal on the season.

Going into the weekend, the Golden Rams were 6-1 when they scored first and undefeated at 3-0 when allowing the first goal. The Flames put a halt to those statistics, doing both and winning in each game.

Liberty came into Friday’s game with 29 power play goals to West Chester’s 27, which was a cause for concern on both sides.
Coach Kirk Handy decided to change up the lines, opting to put sophomore Eric Reynolds, junior Kyle Dodgson and freshman Luke Aitken together on the top line.

Right off the bat, Reynolds and Dodgson produced early scoring chances and picked up the physical play, which progressed through the entire game.

Although Liberty controlled the early portions of the game, the Golden Bears received a power play and deflected in a shot from the point to take the early lead.

Reynolds tried to sway the momentum, throwing two crushing hits on the same shift, and the rest of the Flames team followed his lead.

Sophomore Johnny Chung found a loose puck, sent it to the top of the right circle to Semenyna and Semenyna blasted a slap shot through a screen of Golden Rams past goaltender Corey Hackney. The goal was Semenyna’s 10th of the season.

The tying score ended the first period, and the Flames slowly started to build up momentum.

As a power play ended in the second period, Dodgson sent a pass from the left circle onto the stick of senior Kevin Hendrix and Hendrix fired a wrist shot off the glove of Hackney and went top shelf to take the lead which the Flames would not relinquish.

When Chris Campli of the Golden Bears came over the blue line with his head down, he met sophomore Mike Morrison, who slammed him down to the ice, receiving the biggest roar of approval from the crowd.

West Chester’s offense went on the attack after this hit, but Liberty’s defense came up big. When Robert Bushman got a breakaway opportunity midway through the second, he nearly beat Way with a backhand, but it was Way who managed to stop the shot with his glove and hold the lead for the Flames.

For the remainder of the game, Way and Hackney traded save after save, vying not to be outdone by the other.

“It was tough, but it’s good to go through these types of games because it builds character,” Way said.

Steven Muller and Eric Reynolds rang shots off the post, which were the best chances for either team in the remainder of the game.

Reynolds and Morrison threw big hits in the third that brought the crowd to its feet.

Way finished the game by stopping 35-of-36 shots for a .972 save percentage.

In almost an identical game, the Flames won another 2-1 nail biter on Saturday night. Way and Hackney proved to be huge for their respective teams again and both finished with good numbers.

Semenyna looked to continue his scoring early on going on two end-to-end rushes and nearly scored on both, but Hackney stopped both shots. Hackney followed those up with a big kick save on Stephen Moller.

“He had a really quick glove and made every chance difficult for us,” Chung said of the impact of Hackney on the game. “We hounded, crashed and banged, but in the end he proved to be the backbone of his team.”

After missing the first two chances, Semenyna took advantage of a power play opportunity by skating in on Hackney and firing a wrist shot past him to take the lead.

West Chester tied things up on Shane McGarry’s wrist shot from the top of the circle in the first period. The score ended the opening period’s scoring, tied like the first night 1-1.

Semenyna put the Flames ahead for good during the second period, as he skated in on the Golden Ram defense and sent his game-winning slapshot past Hackney.

West Chester nearly answered in the second as Pat Johnson, West Chester’s second leading scorer, carried the puck over the blue line and fired a scorching slap shot, but came up empty handed as Way snagged the shot out of the air.

Hackney made three sparkling saves to respond to Way’s huge stop, keeping the Flames lead at one at the end of the second period.

In the third, Liberty continued to pick up its physical game and started a “trap” style of play, which involves making it harder for the opposition to cross the blue line.

Way saved the game twice in the last minute of play, including one to seal the game with five seconds left.

Hackney had a spectacular game, using his glove early and often throughout the entire game. He finished stopping 47 of 49 for a .959 save percentage.

“Normally we put the puck in the net more, but its tough when the other goalie is making big saves,” Way said.

Way had another big game, matching his previous night’s performance by stopping 35 of 36 shots for a .972 save percentage.

“You have to keep the puck out of the net and not deflate your team,” Way said.

No. 4 Liberty welcomes the No. 5 University of Delaware Blue Hens on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m.

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