Flames to host Crimson Hawks in final series of semester
December 9, 2015 | Lynchburg, Va.
After losing its first six games at the renovated LaHaye Ice Center, Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team has won four in a row and moved up four spots to No. 16 in this week's ACHA DI rankings.
In their last series of the semester, the Flames can stretch their winning streak to six games and eclipse the .500 mark for the first time since their season-opening victory at Potomac by sweeping unranked Indiana University of Pennsylvania this Friday and Saturday on their home ice.
"We've been finding ways to win hockey games," Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said. "I think the big thing with us is just the confidence gained amongst the guys, especially the younger players, and seeing that their hard work's paying off now, too."
Friday is Faculty and Staff Night, allowing Liberty employees and their families or one guest to receive free admission to the game with departmental battles scheduled between periods. Saturday's game will be designated "Guns & Hoses" night, featuring intermission competitions between members of the Lynchburg Police Department and the Lynchburg Fire Department. Police and fire servicemen and women and their families will receive free tickets.
Liberty will need to continue to build momentum over the Christmas break with challenging rematches at No. 6 Stony Brook (Jan. 9-10) and No. 8 Ohio (Jan. 15-16), which both swept the Flames at LaHaye, awaiting them in the New Year.
"Winning's such a habit," Flames senior forward Tyson Street said. "It's becoming more and more consistent now and we just want to keep it rolling."
Scouting preview, Games 19-20: Indiana University of Pennsylvania (10-9-1) at No. 16 Liberty (8-9-1), Friday, Dec. 11, and Saturday, Dec. 12, (7 p.m.) at the LaHaye Ice Center. Both games will be webcast live by the Liberty Flames Sports Network.
Liberty scouting report: The Flames have gotten key contributions from several players throughout their winning streak, with their nine freshmen playing more and more prominent roles as they enter the second half of their rookie seasons.
Freshmen forwards Zechariah Roberts — feeding off senior linemates Street and Kyle Garcia — and Owen Harris, teaming up with older brother Chase Harris (a converted defenseman), made particularly big plays in Liberty's 5-2 come-from-behind victory over Rutgers on Saturday night. After Chase Harris and fellow junior forward Robert Ward both netted two goals in Friday night's 6-1 rout, Roberts and Owen Harris both scored goals and Roberts distributed two assists in Saturday's rematch.
Junior forward Grant Garvin is still Liberty's points leader with 20 — 11 goals (two game-winners) and nine assists — followed closely by senior forward and alternate captain Danny Logan (5G, 13A) and Ward (4G, 13A).
Graduate goalie Cary Byron has started the last five games in net, going 4-1 to raise his record to 5-2 while lowering his goals-against average (GAA) to 3.56 and improving his save percentage (SP) to 90.9. Junior Matt Pinel is only 2-5 but has comparable stats with a 3.87 GAA and 88.7 SP.
IUP scouting report: The Crimson Hawks, who are 6-5 in the College Hockey Mid-America League (CHMA), have already surpassed their win total from last season, when they finished 9-19-1. They have struggled on the road this season, going 3-7 on foreign ice and 7-2 at home.
Senior forward Adam Kondraski paces IUP's attack with 21 points (9G, 12A) while junior defenseman Reid Duguid (11G, 7A, 18 points) ranks second followed by junior forward Tanner Gilliland (6G, 8A), who is tied with Duguid with five power-play goals and leads the Crimson Hawks with three game-winning scores.
|Head Coach Kirk Handy oversees the Flames beside goalies coach and 2016 ECHL Hall of Fame inductee Daniel Berthiaume (left) during the Oct. 24 home game.|
IUP's defensive corps is anchored by three seniors, Anthony Venezia, Nick Harrison, and Rick Motto. In goal, the Crimson Hawks have platooned two sophomores, with Robert Stock (7-9, 2.76 GAA, 91.0 SP) logging the most minutes by far but Austin Moody (3-0, 0.99 GAA, 97.4 SP) experiencing the most success in limited playing time.
Coaches: Kirk Handy is in his 16th season as Liberty's head coach with an overall record of 341-149-20. Joe Ford is in his first season as IUP's head coach and is 10-9-1 to date.