Mar 2, 2010

Men’s hockey wins finale

by Ryan Walter

Adversity is something that the Liberty Flames hockey team knows well.

Liberty battled back from a 4-0 deficit to lose 5-4 in overtime on the road to the University of Oklahoma Friday night but were able to bounce back and beat the Sooner squad 5-3 the following evening.

Oklahoma scored a quick goal to open up the contest. A couple minutes later, the Sooners were able to convert a breakaway goal on the sleeping Flames and finish the period with one more goal to send the Flames back to their dressing room down 3-0.

“The team came out slow, our heads weren’t in it,” junior Stephen Moller said. “We just didn’t come mentally prepared.”

It did not look like the Flames got the message. The Sooners scored early in the second to extend their lead to 4-0, taking control of the game. However, The Liberty crew wasn’t ready to throw away the game.

Oklahoma took two penalties halfway through the second to put the Flames on a 5-on-3 power play. Junior Jonathan Chung scored to make the game 4-1. Junior Eric Reynolds followed suit by letting go a heavy slap shot, beating the Sooner goalie over the shoulder.

“(It) starts with (Luke) Aiken getting the job done in our own end,” Reynolds said. “He got his head up, made a cross ice pass and I shot the puck.”

The Flames ended the period down two goals but that was not good enough for the sixth ranked Flames.

“We could not be satisfied with our efforts in that period,” Assistant Coach Mike Binnie said. “Every guy needed to take a look in the mirror and put their pride aside.”

Liberty took the words to heart and came out flying in the third, forcing the Sooners to take penalties. Kyle Dodgson was able to bang a rebound into the net on one of the ensuing power plays. Chung scored another big goal for the Flames, tying the game with only seconds left in the final period.

However, the Flames couldn’t finish the comeback. The Sooners were able to convert on a power play banking the puck off Sophomore Seth Jensen’s skate, which deflected into the net in the last minute of overtime.

“It was a tough way to lose,” Jensen said. “We should have came out stronger in the first period, but we were able to battle back. We just didn’t get the end result.”

The heartbreaking defeat lit a fire in the Flames players. Liberty knew they had more and were not going to settle for another loss.

The Flames were determined to come out strong in Saturday night’s contest. However, it was the Sooners who came out on top at the end of the first period. They were able to weather Liberty’s strong play and convert on one of their few chances.

The second period was a different story. Oklahoma got into penalty trouble and freshman Greg Jensen made them pay on the power play tying the game 1-1. The Flames were able to convert another power play goal, this time from senior Dave Semenyna. Jensen finished the scoring in the third with a hard slap shot that blew by the goalie to increase the lead 3-1.

“We weren’t happy about our first period,” freshman Brent Boschman said. “We just played a smarter, more disciplined second period and scored a couple goals as a result.”

Oklahoma was not ready to let Liberty embarrass them at home. The Sooners came out flying and scored two goals past junior Brad Whittingstall to tie the game 3-3. However, Reynolds took the wind out of the Sooners sails taking the lead with a breakaway goal.

“Kyle Dodgson gave me a perfect flip pass,” Reynolds said. “I gave him a head fake then shot it and it went in.”

The Flames then killed off four consecutive penalties before Chung was able to pop the puck in the empty net to win the game 5-3. It was the perfect finish to a fantastic season for Liberty.

“It felt good to come out on top in our last game of the season,” sophomore Joe Smith said. “This has been a good stepping stone on our way to the Nationals.”

The Flames head to Chicago to compete in the ACHA National Tournament. The first game will be Saturday night against Arizona State University.

Contact Ryan Walter

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