Last year, the Liberty Flames men’s hockey team was kicked out of the ACHA Division I Tournament by Penn State. This year, in the second round, the Flames got their vengeance when they beat the Nittany Lions by a score of 4-1 on Sunday.
After easily defeating Kent State on Saturday 7-1, the Flames came into Sunday’s game knowing that the team they were going up against had not missed the championship game in 10 years. They also knew that this was a team they could beat, as earlier this season, the Flames split the weekend series with Penn State, winning one game in overtime.
“It lets us see that anyone can be beaten,” Associate Head Coach Jeff Boettger said. “It also shows us that we are both able and capable of doing so.”
The Flames ran into some penalty trouble in the first and second periods but were able to keep the game tied all the way into the third period.
That is when the Flames ignited.
Junior Pete Masterton continued his torrid scoring pace as he picked up two goals in the game.
“We came across the blue line,” Masterton said. “(Freshman Jonathan) Chung tossed it over to me. It popped off my skate and went right through the goalie’s legs.”
His favorite goal was the empty-netter that he scored, though. ? ?
“The faceoff was right inside the blue line in our zone,” he continued. “We won the faceoff, and the puck got dumped back to me. I just tossed it up the boards, and (Junior John) Langabeer took off sprinting without his stick. He dove for the puck, but collided with a defenseman. Chung had started sprinting too, so he dove for the puck, too. Another defenseman hit him, though. I came up behind those guys and was able to pick the puck up and put it in the empty net.”
“Langabeer was playing football, Chung went samurai, and I just stuck with hockey,” he said
While the Flames won by a score of 4-1, Head Coach Kirk Handy gives a majority of the credit to starting goaltender, senior Mike Binnie.
“Binnie was phenomenal,” he said. “He is the reason we will be playing on Tuesday.”
The final score is a bit deceiving, as it would appear that the Flames dominated the game. However, they were out-shot 39 to 17. Binnie made 38 saves to seal the victory for the Liberty.
“I cannot take all the credit,” Binnie said. “Our guys played really well. They let me see all the shots, even when we were shorthanded all those times. I just tried to control my rebounds and do my thing. Obviously it worked out for the best.”
This will mark the first time in 10 years that Penn State has not been involved in the championship game, a fact not forgotten by the Flames.
“The things that we have been saying and preaching all year are happening,” Boettger said. “As coaches, it is a really cool thing to see. You can say the same thing over and over again, but until they are emulating that and preaching it to each other, that is when you know you have gotten through.”
“All year you play teams that don’t really feel on your level,” he said. “But then you get to come here and see if your team is made of steel or not. Some guys that hardly ever spoke up during the year are standing up in the locker room. (Junior) Kevin Hendrix stood up between the first and second periods and just delivered an amazing speech.
“At that point, we knew what we had to do, and we went out and did it.”
The Flames will next play in the semi-finals of the ACHA Division I tournament on Tuesday, and as of print time, should be facing off against the No. 1 seeded Fighting Illini from the University of Illinois.
They watched the game Sunday night to pick up any pointers.
Handy summed it up.
“All our guys have to be going this time of year,” he said. “And tonight, they were.”
Track how the Flames are doing by visiting LibertyFlames.com and clicking on the men’s hockey Web page.
Contact Will Luper at firstname.lastname@example.org