Nov 7, 2006

Hockey skates its way up ACHA rankings with two more wins

by Dave Thompson
The Flames have continued to solidify their place among the contenders in Division-I of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

Another pair of wins on the road marked yet another stepping stone in their steady rise toward the top, as the Flames put down the Saint Louis University Billikens, running their record to 10-3 on the season.

From the standpoint of the players and the coaches, the first game was less than impressive as Liberty won the contest 5-3. Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy continued to place his characteristic emphasis on “playing for a full 60 minutes.”

“We didn’t play all that well,” said Handy. “If the effort had been there consistently, the score would have been a whole lot different.”

The Flames went up 4-1 by the end of the first period, but the intensity quickly slacked off.

Fortunately for Liberty, Mike Binnie played a solid game between the pipes, allowing only one goal in each period.

After the first period, the offense was unable to give him any more than the two-point cushion with which they eventually won the game.

“Overall, I think I had a good game,” said Binnie. “It was kind of a grind. We just made a few mistakes, and in a good game those mistakes will kill you.”

Forward Jordan Wilson agreed. “Sometimes you have to get those wins you have to grind out,” he said. “It’s not pretty.”
Game two was much prettier for the Flames, who saw a burst of offensive intensity that seemed to have a mind of its own. Unlike the previous game’s early burst of four goals, game two saw the first period conclude with Liberty barely in the lead, 3-2. Then, things really started to pick up.

In the second period, the Flames outscored St. Louis 3-1 and went into the final period up by three. Then, in a whirlwind third, Liberty scored six more goals to the Billikens zero.

Liberty walked away with a certified blowout of 12-3. The most impressive performance came from Kevin Dykstra, who completed a hat trick and also added two assists.

“It just kept happening,” said forward Kyle Dodgson, who scored only once on the night but contributed five assists to the effort. “We just picked up the intensity.”

“The guys played really well,” said Handy, comparing the game with the previous night’s contest. “Our guys were really confident (and played) more of a complete game.”

The Flames seemed to capitalize on every mistake by St. Louis, scoring eight of their 12 goals on power plays. Whereas Friday’s game was much more sedate concerning penalties (26 minutes for Liberty, 22 for St. Louis), Saturday’s contest more than doubled the total penalty time, with the Flames spending 42 minutes in the box to St. Louis 67.

The Flames came into Friday’s contest having recently jumped to 12th from 15th in the ACHA’s D-I rankings.

The next rankings are set to be released on November 17, and if the Flames have anything to say about it, they should continue their steady upward climb.

Next weekend, Liberty faces the University of Maryland Terrapins in the LaHaye Ice Center.
“We just need another two wins next week,” Handy said. The Terrapins, also newly promoted to ACHA D-I, are not currently ranked in the Top 20.

 Contact Dave Thompson at dbthompson@liberty.edu.

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