Feb 13, 2007

Men’s hockey sweeps weekend, wins Navy Tournament

by Eric Brown, Sports Reporter
The Liberty men’s hockey team traveled to Maryland this weekend to compete against the University of Maryland, Villanova and the Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy in the Navy Crab Bowl Tournament. 

The Flames used this tournament as preparation for the Division-1 ACHA National Championships, which are now only two weeks away.

Liberty faced off against the University of Maryland in the first round of the Navy Tournament in what appeared to be a tune-up game.

The Flames picked up two victories against the Terps earlier in the season, and Saturday’s game proved to be quite similar.

Liberty began the first period a little slower than expected, still trying to get focused after a long bus trip.

Despite the slow start, however, the Flames managed to gain a 2-0 advantage over the Terrapins.
Liberty came out firing in the second period, scoring goals left and right and beginning to skate away with an easy victory.

Maryland scored two goals in the period, the second coming after a big hit by Liberty sophomore John Langabeer.

“We were never really worried about the goals that they scored,” said junior Jimmy Stewart.

“We just knew we had to come out and play harder and show them we were the better team.”

The Flames remained in control by the end of the second period as they led the Terps 6-2.
Liberty continued to out-skate Maryland in the third period, scoring three unanswered goals and picking up a 9-2 victory. 

Stewart scored four of Liberty’s nine goals, earning his first collegiate hat trick. 
He netted his third goal when senior Jordan Wilson made an amazing pass.

“He almost seemed to grab the team and put them on his shoulders,” said Head Coach Kirk Handy.
“He played probably the best game I’ve seen him play in his three years here.”

Langabeer and freshman Zac Bauman each scored two goals of their own, followed by freshmen Kyle Dodgson, who scored one. 

Junior Kevin Dykstra and freshman Dave Semenyna, who is ranked in the ACHA Top 10 in both points and assists, provided the Flames with stellar defense, and they combined for a total of seven assists.
“It’s always nice when those guys are on the ice,” said Stewart. “We know that not only will they stop the puck, but they are a constant threat at putting the puck in the net for us as well.”
On Sunday, the Flames moved from the Washington Capitals practice facility in Washington, D.C. to College Park, Md., to take on Navy in the second round of the tournament.

The Midshipmen struck early as they scored the first goal of the game.  Liberty then answered with a goal from Dykstra to tie the game up at 1-1. 

The Flames continued to play catch-up in the first period as Navy took the lead on two more occasions, with Liberty matching them goal for goal each time. 

By the end of the first period, the Flames knew things were not going to be easy as they faced a 3-3 tie going into the second.

“We knew we could play with them,” said junior goalie Mike Binnie.

“The goals that we let up were on a few mental mistakes. We were pretty confident going into the next period that we would come out on top.”

The Flames tried to gain momentum early in the second period as they scored first to take a 4-3 lead.

The Midshipmen respon-ded with a goal of their own, tying the game once again.

However, Liberty turned on the jets with a goal from Stewart and began to take control of the game.
“That was a really big one for us,” said Associate Head Coach Jeff Boettger.

“It took us a definite second effort right in front of the net to battle for the puck and get that goal.”
The Flames followed up with two more goals in less than three minutes.

In addition, they netted one more towards the latter part of the period to extend their lead over Navy.

The goals kept coming for the Flames as they scored in the first 1:05 of the third period to make it 9-4.

However, the Midship-men responded with two quick goals to bring their deficit to only three. 
Just 30 seconds later, Dodgson scored off of a Bauman assist.

Despite the scoring barrage, Navy would return the favor 10 seconds afterwards, giving Liberty a 10-7 lead. 

Upon realizing that the Midshipmen were refusing to go down without a fight, the Flames decided to take a timeout.

“We knew what type of game we were playing,” said Binnie.

“If it got out of control, they could have crept up to us on the scoreboard.”

Liberty stayed focused after the timeout, scoring one more goal in the remaining minutes of the game, making the final score 11-7. 

Nine Flames scored in the contest, including sophomore Josh Ahier.

Ahier contributed two goals, and junior Rob Niemi and freshman Brian Dufrene each scored one goal.
The 25-6 Flames now head back home to the LaHaye Ice Center to take on Kennesaw State this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Contact Eric Brown at eqbrown@liberty.edu.

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