Flames' DII squad surges past Hokies in season opener, 7-3
September 23, 2016 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's ACHA Division II men's hockey team started the 2016-17 regular season on Friday afternoon at the LaHaye Ice Center the same way it will end it on Feb. 11 at the Roanoke Civic Center, with a showdown against Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey (MACH) South Division rival Virginia Tech.
The Flames overcame a 1-0 deficit and broke open a 2-2 tie after the second period with four goals in the first half of the third, securing a 7-3 triumph in the first game of the best-of-three "Battle of the Blue Ridge" against the Hokies, getting hat tricks from junior forwards Paul Lamoureux and Tim Bierema.
"Obviously, we had a little nerves right off the bat with a bunch of new guys to play together — rookies coming in, guys coming down, guys coming up from different teams," Bierema said. "Once we got the first couple goals, the floodgates kind of just opened."
Lamoureux — who tied the game at 1-1 with 8:13 left in the second period off assists from senior defenseman Ryan Sidun and Victor Blomberg, a freshman forward from Sweden — capped his hat trick by netting the first two goals of the third on fast-break finishes. Less than two minutes into the final stanza, senior forward Jordan Barstead sent an outlet pass to graduate forward Peter Kazmierczak near the red line and he skated inside the blue line before setting up Lamoureux, who put the puck away top shelf.
Four minutes later, Lamoureux made a shorthanded steal and worked a two-on-zero give-and-go with senior forward Ben Freymond for an open-net finish past Virginia Tech senior goalie Tanner Jones.
"We were able to break it open in the third when our depth showed and our offensive firepower came through," Liberty Head Coach Chris Lowes said. "We saw a really good goalkeeper who had made a lot of saves up until then."
Bierema gave the Flames a 2-1 lead on a power-play goal off an assist from Freymond before Virginia Tech tied it back up in the final 1:23 of the second period on a goal with 18 seconds left in a five-on-three power play. Felipe Rodriguez scored on a putback of a shot by Grant Phillips, blocked by Clayton Pierce, a freshman goalie from Salem, Va., not far from the Hokies' hometown of Blacksburg.
"Clayton Pierce played very well in his first-ever collegiate game," Lowes said. "He's been coming to our summer camp for years and what an opportunity for him to play in a big game. There was a lot of pressure and I was proud of the way he handled it."
"It's always tough being a rookie goalie," Bierema added. "You don't really know what to expect, but he stood on his head and made the saves that he had to and got us the win."
Bierema extended Liberty's lead to 5-2 when junior linemate Robert Ward stopped a puck with his stick in mid-air in the right circle and fired a laser cross-crease pass onto the tape of Bierema's stick in the left crease for a point-blank finish with 12:30 left in regulation.
Three minutes later, senior linemate Tyson Street sent a pass from behind the cage into Ward in front, where he showed fancy stickwork before lifting a backhanded finish into the upper netting.
After a power-play goal by Virginia Tech, Bierema completed his hat trick with a rebound putback of a shot from the point by Sidun in the final minute.
Liberty, which outshot the Hokies 39-21 for the contest, will be off for the next two weeks before hosting Cincinnati and Rider, Oct. 14-15.