Feb 23, 2010

Liberty Sweeps Grizzlies

by Ryan Walter

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Ice cold.

The capacity crowd at the LaHaye Ice Center witnessed revenge at its finest ­— watching the Flames avenge two previous losses to the Oakland Grizzlies by sweeping them this weekend, 6-5 on Friday and 4-3 on Saturday.

However, the Flames did not start the way they had hoped. The Grizzlies scored eight seconds into Friday night’s game, stunning the crowd. It would take work, but Liberty was able to bounce back and tie the score at 1 off a nifty goal by senior Kyle Dodgson.
“Obviously, we were disappointed at how we started,” Assistant Coach Mike Binnie said. “However, we made the appropriate changes and played our game.”

The Flames came out in the second period with a bang, scoring two goals to break the tie and extend their lead to two. Junior Jonathon Chung’s power play tally lifted the Flames to a 2-1 lead. Senior Dave Semenyna would extend the lead to 3-1.

The comfortable lead was only short lived. The Grizzlies scored three unanswered goals at the end of the second period to re-take the lead and the momentum. After a strong early second period the Flames went to the dressing room down a goal.

“It was tough to put in that much effort and not be winning,” Sophomore Joe Smith said. “We knew we had another level and we found it.”

The Flames came out gunning in the third but hit another road block as Oakland was able to push their lead to 5-3 with another early goal. Liberty wouldn’t give up. Captain Zac Bauman was able to cut the Grizzlies lead by going hard to the net, and deflect the puck into the back of the mesh.

Soon after that Junior Eric Reynolds backhanded the puck in the top corner of the net to tie the game. In the waning minutes, Freshman Brent Boschman scored a power play goal for the game-winner.

“We proved that we can come back after being down a few goals,” Junior Brad Whittingstall said. “That will be important at Nationals.”

It would also be important the next night as the Liberty squad found itself in a similar situation.

The Flames came out hard with a quick power play goal from Boschman in the first to take a 1-0 lead, but the Grizzlies were able to dash those hopes yet again. Liberty was given a five minute penalty and Oakland was able to convert two goals on the power play leading 2-1 after the first period.

“In the first period we came out flying and were all over them,” Boschman said. “But we ran into some penalty trouble and it lost some momentum for us.”

Liberty refused to let this early setback define the game.
Semenyna stick handled through three Oakland players and beat the goalie over the shoulder to tie the game at two. As the second period came to a close both teams knew that it was going to be a battle in the third.

“I thought we responded well by sticking to our game plan,” Dodgson said. “We made some good adjustments.”

Again, though, the Flames lost their stride, going down 3-2 early in the third. They didn’t budge. Freshman Greg Jensen scored his 20th goal of the season to tie the game at 3 apiece. There were some late attempts at heroics by the Flames but the Grizzlies were able to hold on with a few outstanding saves by Oakland goalie Alex Pikunas and force overtime.

The overtime also went scoreless and the game would have to be decided in a shootout. After three failed Oakland attempts at beating freshman goalie Matt Pedersen, Jonathan Chung scored on Liberty’s third shot to win the game 4-3 and sweep the series.

“Chung has always been one of our clutch players,” Smith said. “He didn’t disappoint.”

The Flames look to build on their momentum next weekend against Oklahoma. It will be the last two games of the season before their trip to Nationals in Chicago.

Contact Ryan Walter
at rmwalter@liberty.edu.

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