Liberty rallies on road to take ESCHL lead from Stony Brook
January 13, 2018 | Stony Brook, N.Y.
Opening the new year on Long Island, N.Y., for the fifth season in a row, Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team upset Stony Brook in the opener on the road for the first time since 2015, Saturday night at The Rinx.
The Flames (17-6, 16-2 ESCHL, ranked 14th in ACHA DI) rallied from a 2-0 deficit with three unanswered goals in the third period for a 3-2 victory, overcoming a slow start to outshoot the 11th-ranked Seawolves (15-4-1, 6-3) by a 31-30 margin.
"It was a strong third period," Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said after the Flames extended their winning streak to six games and moved into the lead in the ESCHL regular-season standings. "Through two periods, we didn't have our A game. We were working hard, but not necessarily working smart and we had hardly any shots on goal. I believe we had 14 through two periods and in the third period, we had 17 shots on goal."
Stony Brook jumped out to a 1-0 lead with 13:58 left in the first period when Devon Palmieri scored unassisted shorthanded after a forecheck that caught Flames junior goalie Cole Burack off guard. Palmieri stole the puck after Burack tried to clear it behind the cage and finished his shot into the open net.
Then, with 11:08 to play in the second period, Brendan Calello capped a short break by rattling the puck off the right post and into the back of the net for a 2-0 advantage.
Sophomore forward Victor Blomberg ignited the Flames attack by making a steal in the neutral zone and ripping a shot into the top right corner past Seawolves goalie Payne Yoder, trimming the deficit to 2-1 with 14:48 left in regulation.
Then, with Liberty on the power play, it capitalized on the equalizer following a tic-tac-toe pass sequence, with junior defenseman Zane Schartz feeding junior forward Zechariah Roberts who set a short pass back to sophomore forward Brock Thompson for a shot through a screen from the high slot at the 10:33 mark.
Just over two minutes later, sophomore defenseman Matt Cruickshank netted the game-winner with a one-timed slap shot off an assist from sophomore forward Quinn Ryan from the top of the left circle into the upper netting.
"It was a nice, timely goal by Vic (Blomberg) and then Thompson's power play goal tied it up and Matt Cruickshank had a real nice shot to win it," Handy said. "There was some traffic in front of the goalie and he was able to hit the top right corner there."
Burack made 28 saves to clinch the victory in goal for the Flames.
"Cole definitely played well," Handy said. "He made some big saves tonight for us and our penalty kill did an excellent job tonight. When you're able to play real solid on the PK, that's a big thing for us."
Liberty will look to complete the sweep Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at The Rinx, in a game webcast live by Stony Brook that won't count toward the ESCHL standings.
"That's a big win for us," Handy said after Saturday's triumph. "Winning the conference game against Stony Brook was a win we wanted to have. … Now we're focused on (Sunday). We can definitely play better."