Mar 24, 2009

Men's Hockey

by B.J. Williams

The Liberty Flames 2008-2009 Hockey season can be divided into three distinct parts.

The Flames got the fires burning quickly after a season-opening loss to the University of Oklahoma inside the LaHaye Ice Center. Liberty would win the next eight games by a combined score of 60-22, including a 5-4 win over the Richmond Renegades, a professional hockey team. After losing 4-3 to Stony Brook University, the Flames won five of their next six including a split with Lindenwood.

The team then went into a rough middle portion of the season starting with a loss to the University of Delaware inside the Ice Center. The Flames would lose five of the final eight games to close the 2008 portion of the year, including a sweep on the road at former Division II rival Oakland University.

Things did not get any better when the calendar changed to 2009 as Liberty opened the year losing four out of five games, getting swept by both Robert Morris University and Davenport University, followed by what Coach Kirk Handy described as the “turning point in the season.” The Flames traveled to the University of Delaware again to face a team that was ranked in the top five in the American Collegiate Hockey
Association (ACHA) Division I rankings. The Flames would go on to split with the Blue Hens, losing 3-2 in overtime in the first game, before coming back the next night to gut out a 2-1 win.

The Flames found their mojo again after a weekend split with No. 3 Penn State, and won six of their final eight games heading into the ACHA playoffs. Liberty notched sweeps over Robert Morris, ranked just behind the Flames at the time, Duquesne and Washington and Jefferson and suffered a tough sweep at the hands of Oklahoma. The Flames went into the 2009 ACHA Division I National Championship seeded eighth, and that meant another matchup with the Colonials of Robert Morris University. This time the season would be over for the loser.
Jonathan Chung would get the Flames off to a good start, lighting the lamp off a Josh Ahier pass about 10 minutes in. Stephen Moller kept the run going as he picked up his first goal of the tournament late in the period.

The second period saw RMU get on the board thanks to Joe Ferriero, but Moller added his second goal of the game to push the lead back to two goals at 3-1.

Ryan King once again cut the deficit to one, but that would be as close as the Colonials would get.

Back-to-back goals by Adam Docksteader, one late in the second period and one midway through the third along with a Joe Smith goal to add to his assist on the first goal put the game away and Liberty would go on to the quarterfinals with a 6-2 victory.

The Flames knew they were in for a tough match when they stepped onto the ice to face the No. 1 seed Lions on Lindenwood University. The Flames had beaten the other Liberty earlier in the season, but this was a different night on a different rink.

After a scoreless first period, Lindenwood got on the board thanks to a Charles Boeckman goal on the power play after a penalty on Chung for Liberty. The Lions kept putting on the pressure and added two more coming off the sticks of Kyle Bailey and Adam Krefski, who also assisted on each other’s goals.

Lindenwood would add two more goals in the third as Liberty racked up five penalties in the final stanza as frustration mounted. Kyle Dodgson kept the game from being a shutout as he scored in the final minute.
Coach Handy said he really wanted to “keep things positive., and try to not let the highs get to high and the lows get too low because its a long season.”

When asked later what he wanted to take away from a season like this one he said, “This is a very experienced team now...I had to bring in 13 freshmen this year, but with that core coming back now I wont have to bring in so many young players.”

Despite losing seniors Josh Ahier, Kevin Hendrix, John Langabeer and Kevin Shaw, the future looks very bright on the mountain as the Flames look to burn up the ice next year in search of their first national championship.

Contact BJ Williams at


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