The Liberty Flames Division I hockey team played a two-game series against Adrian College Friday and Saturday, winning its first game against Adrian College, but losing the second. The team played two hard-fought games in a packed Lahaye Ice Center. Liberty head coach Kirk Handy said this was the first time the two teams had competed against one another.
Friday’s game started with an exciting first period filled with big hits. Adrian took two penalties, allowing strong scoring opportunities for Liberty. Senior forward Eric Reynolds put a goal in for Liberty with two minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the period.
A penalty called on Liberty at the end of the first period carried over into the first five seconds of the second. The rest of the period featured eight additional penalty calls, which resulted in both solid scoring chances and strong defensive play by both teams.
Although both teams were playing well defensively, blocking many shots, one shot got through for Adrian College with 1:02 remaining in the second period when Jordan Spear placed the puck into the top right corner of the net after breaking away from Liberty’s defenders, making the score 1-1 going into the third.
Adrian College had some scoring chances in the third period, many of them coming on the power play. Liberty goalie Blair Bennett made the key saves to give his team a chance at the win.
“Blair Bennett, our goalie, was fantastic tonight. He played well, was very composed,” Handy said.
Liberty took a penalty with 1:15 left in the game, stopping a potential scoring chance for Adrian but leaving them a man short as the clock continued to tick down.
Liberty took a time out to regroup. Then, the fans watched with great anticipation as Liberty fought to keep the game tied. Freshman forward Andrew McCombe cleared the puck to the neutral zone 26 seconds before the final buzzer, Bennett made another key save on a shot by Spear, and senior forward Jonathan Chung and junior captain Joe Smith carried the puck into Adrian zone to kill off a few more seconds of penalty just as regulation time ran out.
The game went to 4 - 4 sudden death overtime. Liberty’s first overtime objective was to kill off the remaining 45 seconds of penalty, according to Handy. They were able to do so successfully.
Then, Adrian Tristan Musser took an interference penalty for preventing Chung from going after the puck. After a few shots by Adrian, Liberty’s power play unit set up in their offensive zone. Their first shot was unsuccessful, but after regaining the puck and passing it back and forth between McCombe and senior defenseman Mike Morrison, Brent Boschman was able to score the game-winning goal with 3:38 left on the clock.
“It was very exciting,” Handy said. “I was encouraged because I thought our team played well enough to win. We still have things to work on.”
Handy said that he was not satisfied yet with the level the team was playing, but that early wins are important and winning while learning is good.
Saturday’s game lacked a finish as exciting as Friday’s. Adrian College took the lead with a goal by Max Gavin halfway through the first period. After some intense battles for puck possession, Adrian increased its lead to 2-1 with just 14.4 seconds left in the first.
Liberty had done well with discipline in the first period, but in the second the team took five penalties. Liberty did well on the penalty kill.
Ryan Bachman of Adrian College scored after faking a shot and skirting a defender, making the score 3-0.
Liberty’s only goal came directly after a face-off when McCombe was able to quickly shoot the puck past Adrian’s goalie. But Adrian answered quickly when Bachman scored his second goal of the night. Andrew Amodeo finished off the scoring for Adrian College on a power play, making the final score 5-1.
“They jumped in front of every shot,” Boschman said.
The Flames will face off next against Niagara University Sept. 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m. and against Binghamton University Sept. 26th at 2 p.m.
CAGWIN is a sports reporter.