Oct 10, 2006

LU Hockey fights its way to victory

by Dave Thompson

The Davenport Panthers came to Liberty for what Flames goalie Dalton Stoltz called a “pretty personal battle.”

“We knew going into last night that they wanted it really bad, because we ended their national championship run the last two years,” he said.

The Panthers moved to ACHA Division-I competition at the beginning of the year along with Liberty and several other schools.

Davenport took the first game in a tooth-and-nail battle that featured good defense on both sides. With about one minute left in the third period and Davenport leading 4-3, the Flames elected to pull their goalie in favor of another forward.

The move didn’t pay off, however, and the Panthers were able to get a breakaway and score on the empty net for a 5-3 victory.

The highlight, or rather lowlight, of the game came after the signal ended the second period.

An altercation erupted that saw a fair share of players involved from both sides. The referees’ hands were kept full for several minutes restraining players. By the time both teams left the ice, the crowd was in a frenzy.

“It was a bit of a heated moment,” said Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy.

According to Stoltz, “Sometimes blood just runs a little thick and gets a little hot, so it’s just some guys taking out some frustration.”

Though there were some minor blows exchanged, the fireworks did not carry over into the second game of the weekend. However, the intensity from Liberty’s players remained at a high level from start to finish.

The first period action was an excellent indicator of the rest of the game, which would feature football-style scoring.

After only one period of play, Davenport exited with a 5-4 lead. Handy then made the decision to pull goalie Mike Binnie in favor of Stoltz.

“We made a decision to change goalies…not because we thought Mike was playing poorly. We were trying to shake up our team, and the team responded.”

Indeed they did, offensively as well as defensively. Stoltz held Davenport scoreless for 39:52. The Flames scored four unanswered goals in the second and third period.

The Panthers were finally able to garner a goal with eight seconds left in the final period, but the Flames escaped with a satisfying 8-6 victory.

“Our whole concept changed in the second and third (period),” said Stoltz. “We came out pretty determined and focused with the mindset on defense.” The team’s defense was certainly much more focused, even during Davenport’s power plays, and Stoltz was spectacular with the glove as well as the stick.

“We have a lot of confidence in Dalton….Dalton or Mike can go in any time of the game and replace the other one,” said Handy.

Stoltz compared the games to a playoff setting, based on the two teams’ personal feelings toward each other. According to him, the teams have been in constant communication with each other via the Internet leading up to this game.

“We’ve been building up relationships with guys on the team… so we knew going into last night that they wanted it really bad.”

Though Liberty’s unbeaten streak was snapped, the Flames were able to split the series and come out looking solid. They now stand at 5-1 on the season.

“I think any time that you lose a game and come back the next night and win, that shows that you have character,” said Stoltz.

“We had to be there for sixty minutes,” said Handy. “Tonight we were there for sixty minutes.”

Liberty’s next match will be at home against ACC foe Virginia Tech on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.


Contact Dave Thompson at dbthompson@liberty.edu.

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