Sep 23, 2008

Flames fight to weekend split with Oklahoma

by William Armstrong

The Liberty Flames Hockey team did not start the first season series against the Oklahoma Sooners in ideal fashion but the team finished on a high note. After the Sooners secured an easy 5-1 victory on Friday, the Flames roared back on Saturday with a 6-2 win.
In front of a record crowd on opening night, the Flames could not sustain momentum throughout the game suffered a lopsided loss.
Both teams started out sluggish before the Sooners took control of the contest. After stealing the puck inside the Liberty zone, Sean McCauley stole the puck and put his shot over freshman goalie Colin Way and into the top right corner of the net.

Liberty was unable to take advantage of power play chances in the first period, as their best chance was wasted when Kevin Hendrix’s shot hit the post.

The Sooners held a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission and on the power play. Less than 30 seconds into the second period, junior Dave Semenyna tied the game when he scored a short handed goal on an individual rush.

On a four-on-three power play, the Sooners took the lead for good when Austin Miller’s slap shot went between the legs of Way. Oklahoma tacked on three more goals, two of which were breakaways. The Sooners controlled the rest of the game as Liberty mustered just 10 shots, including only two in the third period. Both teams were physical throughout the game, but the contest took a turn for the worse when Flames player Will Gamble had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher with a suspected spinal injury.

As the second game approached Liberty knew it was on the hot seat after the previous nights performance, and the team responded with a enormous 6-2 victory.

Game two featured a number of firsts for the Flames. Freshman Rob Vanwynsberghe tallied his first two goals and assist, freshman Josh Reynolds scored his first career goal and freshman Joe Smith got his first career assist. The two teams compiled over thirty penalties combined, and each team wasted four power plays.

“We woke up, changed our game plan, and brought some more intensity. It’s one of those games you won’t forget, and it was great being apart of my brothers first goal,” Eric Reynolds said.

Early on in the game, the Flames took advantage of a power play opportunity, and Vanwynsberghe put home a rebound for his first career goal as a Flame. Later, captain Zach Bauman found sophomore Eric Reynolds near the hash marks and he waited out the goalie and put Liberty up 2-0.

With less than nine minutes remaining in the first period, Miller received a pass from Blake Johnson and sent a scorcher of a slap shot past Way to cut the Liberty lead to 2-1.

Vanwynsberghe answered on the power play for the Flames, when he secured a rebound, spun around, fired a wrist shot into the top right corner and finished with a celebratory pump of his fist. The score gave Liberty a 3-1 lead and had the looking like a completely different team than the night before.

“When I scored, there was a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders, and after that it w clear sailing,” Vanwynsberghe said. “I’’m a rookie, and it’s nice to have an impact the way I did.”

At 14:25 of the second period, Reynolds sprung brother Josh Reynolds on a breakaway and J. Reynolds snuck a shot between the goalie’s arm and leg.

Later in the period on a power play, Vanwynsberghe brought the puck into the Sooner zone, dropped it back to Semenyna who wired a low slap shot past the Sooner goaltender to extend the Flames lead to 5-1. Semenyna’s blast ended the second period scoring and matched the final score of the previous night’s game but in reverse order.

The remainder of the game continued to be physical, but an event happened that has never occurred before at the LaHaye Ice Center. Bauman received a pass at the blueline on the left side, cut across to the right and fired a wrist shot past the Sooner goalie Chad Helgason. As Bauman was going around the cage, he was met by Miller and thrown down to the ice, which garnered fisticuffs. As Oklahoma players exited a fight occurred outside the rink. The game looked as if it could have been ended after the previous events, but the officials, players and coaches met and decided to resume play.

The Sooners finished the games scoring on the power play to edge the Liberty lead to 6-2. The Flames came back and won in bigger fashion than the Sooners had the night before.

Liberty plays its next series next weekend as the team faces off against the Kennesaw State Owls Friday and Saturday at 7:30 at the LaHaye Ice Center.


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