Feb 5, 2008

Women's hockey bags Nittany Lions with weekend wins

by William Armstrong
Good starts and even better finishes are always in a team’s mindset going into a season. The Liberty University women’s hockey team is on the verge of having both a good start and a better finish. The Lady Flames swept the Penn State Nittany Lions for their sixth series sweep of the season. For the last home games of the season, Liberty gave its fans plenty of reasons to cheer with its offensive and defensive play. At 29-7-1, the Flames rank fourth in the their league, the ACHA. Starting off the weekend with freshman Leanne Niemi in net, the ladies overpowered the Nittany Lions in a 9-3 victory. Relentless pressure on both sides of the puck during the entire game led Liberty to the victory. The Lady Flames were shorthanded through long stretches of the game, though, leading to several rough portions of the game for Liberty. “We have good teamwork and put pressure on the other team,” senior Kim Spangler said. “We play really well shorthanded and got many calls against us. We try to sit back and play our game when they throw cheap shots. We’ve come so far and had lots of injuries.” Junior Kerri Porter added, “The team started off shaky, but we pulled together and got the victory. We were strong protecting our goalie, had trouble with the penalties that were called and as a team got over the penalties,” Late in the first, freshman Kristen Frescura converted an attempt off a feed from freshman Andrea Joyce. With less than five minutes remaining in the opening period, Joyce scored on a breakaway, beating the goalie on her forehand to put the Lady Flames up by two. Freshman Brooke Harris scored off a faceoff to conclude the first period scoring with Liberty on top 3-0. Frescura netted another shorthanded goal when she cruised in on the breakaway and put a backhander past the goaltender. Frescura went through three defenders and put her shot in the top left corner of the net. Joyce received a pass from freshman Alaina Nelson and made a move comparable to the classic “Forsberg move” done by NHL player Peter Forsberg. Freshman Rhiannon Habibullah fed the puck in front of the net to Frescura, who put her one-timer past the goalie for the powerplay goal. Harris scored on an individual shorthanded rush when she fired the puck from below the left circle to the top right corner of the net to end the second period scoring with the Lady Flames leading 8-3. Frescura made a move along the boards and sent the puck to Habibullah, who scored on the backhand to finish the game’s scoring. Liberty continued its dominant play into the second game, with Patti Smith in the net, by defeating the Nittany Lions 8-3. The game was rescheduled from Friday to Sunday at 7 a.m. “Early morning games are tough,” Bloomfield said. “We played a good series and liked the results. It was disappointing that we couldn’t play them on Friday. It’s hard for fans to get up for a game like that, but we did have good support.” Frescura and Joyce both recorded hat tricks, Sophomore Sara Niemi had a goal and two assists, and Harris notched a goal for the Flames. The game was similar to the first game as the Flames scored the first goal, but the first period ended tied at one. Liberty took a 4-2 lead at the end of the second period but never broke the game open until the third period. Habibullah was sent to the hospital after receiving a slash to her ankle after a whistle. That led to a rough last couple of minutes involving fights before the final whistle. “I was thankful the girls played a smart game, because it’s hard to stay focused when there are cheap shots and they aren’t getting called,” Bloomfield said. Liberty heads north to play its final series of the season at Ohio State on Feb. 9-10. Contact William Armstrong at wsarmstrong@liberty.edu.
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