Nov 14, 2006

Liberty Hockey downs Terrapins

by A.J. Karidis

The University of Maryland visited Liberty this weekend in hopes of upsetting the Flames, who were then the 12th-ranked Division-I team in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, but they left with two losses and a bunch of bruises.

In the first game of the weekend series, Liberty walked all over Maryland on the way to its first shutout of the season at 9-0. 

Junior net-minder Mike Binnie was the story of the game along with the Flames’ hard-working offense.

“When the goalie plays well, it helps with the momentum of our team. It’s a momentum changer,” said Head Coach Kirk Handy.

Binnie’s biggest save of the night came 11 minutes into the game when a neutral zone turnover allowed Maryland forward Matt Pennington to get loose on a breakaway.

Binnie kept Liberty up by a goal with a diving poke check. It would prove to be the Terrapins’ last real threat of the night.

“The game started slow, but once we established a physical presence and started fore-checking we created momentum and put the puck in the back of the net,” said Handy.

Freshman Kyle Dodgson opened the scoring five minutes into the first period when he took a pass from freshman standout Dave Semenyna and scored from a tough angle. 

Liberty really took control as the first period came to a close, netting  two goals in the final three minutes. 

The first was scored by junior Kevin Dykstra and the second by sophomore Kevin Hendrix on another breakaway.

Within the first minute-and-a-half of the second period, the Flames added goals from freshman Zac Bauman and senior Jordan Wilson to go up 5-0.

Then things got dicey. Halfway through the second period, Maryland’s Ryan Daniels pinned Dodgson to the ice. After the play, Dykstra confronted the Terrapin defender in defense of his teammate. The Flames seemed to feed off that confrontation the rest of the game.

“That’s something we talk about,” said Handy. “We know we’re a better hockey team than (they are). We need to play at our level and outwork them.”

Liberty did just that and more. The Flames tacked on four more goals in the second from Semenyna, sophomores Josh Ahier and John Langabeer, and Bauman, who netted his second of the game to close the scoring.

The second game of the series seemed to pick right up where the first left off.

Liberty controlled the puck in the offensive zone with a hard-working forecheck, and three minutes into the game they broke through. Semenyna took the puck from the right point and weaved around two defenders before single-handedly finishing the play with a quick wrist-shot pass the goalie’s stick side. 

Semenyna’s impressive puck-handling netted him three goals during the two-game series.

“Dave is an older freshman,” said Handy. “His poise and calmness with the puck is what sets him apart.”

“I worked in Las Vegas for three years,” said Semenyna. “At first it (playing at Liberty) was hard because I wasn’t in shape. Slowly but surely it is coming back, though.”

Maryland finally put the puck in the net for the first time on the weekend when Pennington poked a wrist shot just past Binnie’s glove late in the first. He would add another late in the game.

“We had some mental lapses on their two goals,” said Handy. “We were trying to score rather than defend our own end.”

Things got rough again in the second period when a scrum broke out in front of the net. Terrapins goalie Jeremy Chernock got involved, causing Binnie to cross center ice and confront him.  The two wrestled to the ground before they were broken up, and each was handed a game misconduct.

“It’s hockey. Sometimes, even your goalie has to come past the center-line to send a message,” said Semenyna.

The message was sent as Liberty took the second game 7-2.  The Flames (12-3) now head on the road until after Christmas break for some tough games. On Nov. 17 and 18, the Flames square off against the University of Arizona while they face Arizona State on Sunday, Nov. 19.

“We’re excited about the games coming up. Arizona and Arizona State should be a good test for us,” said Handy.  “We aren’t playing to beat Maryland. We are playing to win a national championship.”

“I think we can (win the national championship),” said senior captain Jon Ziegler.  “It’s going to be tough. We have to get hot at the right time like (last season’s team) did. I think we have quite a good shot.”

Contact A.J. Karidis at arkaridis@liberty.edu.


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