Feb 2, 2010

Flames fight back for Saturday night victory against OU

by Ryan Walter

The Liberty Flames hockey team and the visiting Oklahoma Sooners traded wins this weekend. However, anyone who witnessed the games would agree that a split never felt so sweet.
The Liberty squad proved to be resilient, bouncing back Saturday night with a convincing 6-3 win after a disappointing overtime loss the night before.

“It always feels good beating a team that gets under your skin like Oklahoma has,” sophomore Joe Smith said. “It definitely felt great to prove them wrong.”

The Flames came out strong Friday night, as did the rowdy fans that packed the LaHaye Ice Center. Sophomore Greg Jensen started the scoring with a neat conversion, fooling the goalie with a quick, hard shot. Junior Jonathon Chung followed it up with a goal of his own, beating the goaltender cleanly.

“We put the shots on net,“ senior Dave Semenyna said. “Only good things can happen when you do that.”

However, it would be Jensen’s bone-crushing body check that would both shatter the glass and send the crowd into the frenzy.
“It was awesome, “ senior Cory Rice said. “You don’t see that very often in a hockey game.”

The Liberty squad was confident entering the second period with a 2-1 lead. After Jensen’s second tally of the game, it looked as if the Flames had a firm grip on the game. However, the grip was not as strong as they had hoped.

“I thought we did a poor job in the third period,” Smith said. “Once they got the first one on us, we weren’t able to recover.”

The Flames 3-1 lead soon diminished as Liberty allowed Oklahoma to muster two goals in the last four minutes. That would be enough to force overtime and put all the pressure on the Liberty squad.

“We worked hard for 53 minutes,” junior goalie Brad Whittingstall explained. “Then we just let it slip away.”

The Flames were unable to hold back the streaking Sooners as they converted in overtime to win the first game of the two game series, 4-3. Saying the loss left the Liberty crew with a bitter taste was an understatement.

“We came out flat in the first game,” assistant Coach Mike Binnie said. “(But) we corrected our mistakes and did what we had to do.”
First on their list was repayment for the embarrassment in the previous game. Liberty would not give Oklahoma the luxury of an easy win in game two.

The players were ready to battle and the fans did not let a little snow get in the way of witnessing it.

“Hands down, (we have the) best fans in the league,” Semenyna said. “(We had) great support both games and it was appreciated by the players.”

However, the fans were in for a shock as Oklahoma started the scoring in the first and would take that 1-0 lead into the dressing room. The Flames were not ready to give up.

Senior Kyle Dogdson snapped home junior Stephen Moller’s initial shot on goal to tie the score at one. A little later in the period, captain Zac Bauman converted on the power play with a nice re-direction goal to put the Flames up.

“It was five on three,” Bauman said. “(Mike) Lane hit me for a back door deflection and I just got my stick on it.”

Jensen chipped in and capped the scoring for the second period. The Flames left the second period with a 3-2 lead.

“We did the little things right and won all the little battles,” Dodgson said. “We stuck to our game plan, which got them frustrated.”

The Flames squad came out hard in the third, squashing any Sooner attempt for a comeback. Oklahoma got an early goal to tie the game, but Dodgson immediately responded with the best goal of the weekend. After stick handling through three Sooner players, he let go a quick shot that beat the goalie.

The Flames offense then exploded, with Bauman and Semenyna each tacking on a goal, finishing the game with a hard fought 6-3 win to tie the season series at a game apiece.

“We got stronger each period and played a stronger game,” head coach Kirk Handy said. “We had some adversity but battled through it.”

The Flames will go on the road next weekend as they travel to the University of Delaware to face off against the Fightin’ Blue Hens in another top-15 matchup.

Contact Ryan Walter at
rmwalter@liberty.edu.
 


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