Oct 31, 2006

Liberty Flames hockey runs record to 8-3

by Jake Petersen
The Liberty University Flames hockey team came into this weekend’s matchup with the Dukes of Duquesne University in hopes of erasing last week’s back-to-back losses to Illinois from its memory.

In Friday night’s contest, freshman Dave Semenyna, a native of Alberta, Canada, put the Flames up 1-0 early on in the first period. The Flames would never relinquish that lead. Semenyna, who leads the Flames in goals, assists and points, scored his fifth goal of the season and added another goal in the third period, making it six goals on the season.

Semenyna, who is one of 13 Canadians on the roster, said after the game, “I love hockey because it takes my mind off school and I enjoy playing the game. It’s fun and I get to ‘ship’ it.”

The “ship it” reference is an inside joke among the Flames’ team, and it represents the intensity of how they play week to week.

The Flames really “shipped it” the rest of the night as well. Junior Kevin Dykstra single handedly slashed his way through the Duquesne defense all night en route to a hat trick. In the first period, Dykstra followed Semenyna’s goal with one of his own, a nifty little move around a helpless Duquesne defender. He finished off the play by beating the goalie for his first goal of the year.

“(The goal) really gave our team confidence,” said Dykstra. “We know that we can all put the puck in the net – it’s just a matter of someone stepping up and making a big play.”

The Dukes were able to tack on one goal in the period, cutting the deficit to 2-1, and they would add another goal early on in the second period, knotting the score at 2-2.  That was as close as they would get all night.

The Flames dominated the rest of the period, with goals being tacked on by sophomores Pete Masterson, Kevin Hendrix and one more from Dykstra.

At the start of the third period, Liberty held a comfortable 6-2 lead against the Dukes. A faulty lug nut in one of the doors located inside the rink led to a 15-minute delay in the action, but the delay was unable to affect the Flames’ offense, which scorched the Duquesne defense for three more goals in the third period.

Semenyna added his second goal of the night while sophomore Josh Ahier joined the “score-fest” with his first goal of the year. Dykstra capped off his dominating performance with his third goal of the night as the Flames cruised to a 9-3 victory.

“Our team came out strong and played good, hard defense,” said Head Coach Kirk Handy after the game. “We definitely dominated the physical aspect of the game, which is something that we wanted to do. As far as tomorrow night’s game, we will look to do much of the same – dominate physically, play good defense, and put the puck in the net.”

Saturday night’s game started out a little slow, but the Flames were finally able to light up the scoreboard when Dykstra took matters into his own hands.

After his initial shot on goal was blocked by Duquesne’s goaltender, Dykstra snagged his own rebound and sent it into the net, putting the Flames up 1-0.

Semenyna was next to score, adding two more goals in the period, sending Liberty into the locker room sitting pretty with a 3-0 lead.

Despite allowing two goals, the second period turned out to be an offensive outbreak for the Flames.
Less than a minute into the period, sophomore John Langabeer increased the lead to 4-2 and Semenyna followed with his third goal of the night, a coast-to-coast wrist shot past the goalie to make it 5-2.

Ahier, Masterson and Ziegler  also scored goals for the Flames in the second period, putting Liberty ahead 8-2 at period’s end.

Ahier was able to tack on another goal in the third period, and despite giving up a late goal, the Flames were able to easily dismantle the 18th-ranked team in the nation by a score of 9-3.

“Overall, I would obviously give us an ‘A’ based upon the two wins,” said Handy. “Tonight, our consistency was there for the most part – we just need to work on it being there for all 60 minutes.”

Liberty is currently ranked 15th in the nation in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division-I polls. Handy feels this year’s team has a legitimate shot at duplicating last year’s deep run into the ACHA playoffs, mainly coming from the special bond that he sees every day in practice between his players.

“The bond that this team has is extremely special,” he said. “A lot of the older guys make the team come together and really nurture the younger guys by looking out for them and teaching them everything they need to know.”

Liberty (8-3) will hit the road this weekend, looking to continue on its quest for a title this Friday against Saint Louis University.

Contact Jake Petersen at jtpetersen@liberty.edu.

Photo by Colt Freeman.
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