Flames set to host Seawolves in rematch of ESCHL final
November 1, 2017 | Lynchburg, Va.
Two one-goal setbacks to 11th-ranked Ohio last weekend at the LaHaye Ice Center dropped Liberty University's ACHA Division I men's hockey team one spot to No. 14 in this week's ACHA DI rankings.
Going into this weekend's home series against Stony Brook, the ninth-ranked team in the ACHA and first-place team in the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League (ESCHL), the Flames are still very much in the hunt for the ESCHL regular-season title and automatic bid to the ACHA DI National Championships, set for March 8-13 in Columbus, Ohio.
Last year, in its first season in the ESCHL, Liberty advanced to nationals after dethroning the four-time defending ESCHL tournament champion Seawolves in the title game.
"It will be a great battle this weekend," Flames Head Coach Kirk Handy said. "We will get focused this week in practice and we are looking forward to it."
Saturday's encore matchup will be a Military Appreciation Night and will kick off Liberty's upcoming Military Emphasis Week (which runs through Nov. 11) with free tickets available for service members and veterans available upon request (email email@example.com for more information).
There will be a special pre-game ceremony honoring the U.S. military at 6:45 p.m. and competitions between representatives of different branches of the military on the ice between periods.
The Flames will don new patriotic red, white, and blue uniforms for the contest, three of which will be sold by silent auction bids accepted through the end of the second intermission.
Scouting Preview, Games 13-14: No. 9 Stony Brook (9-0-1, 6-0 ESCHL) at No. 14 Liberty (8-4, 7-1 ESCHL), Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (7 p.m.) at the LaHaye Ice Center. Both games will be webcast live by the Liberty Flames Sports Network (LFSN) with coverage carried on the Big South Network and ESPN3/WatchESPN, after Liberty worked out a contract last month to stream all of this season's home games on that network.
Liberty scouting report: The Flames feature the second-leading scorer in ACHA Division I, senior forward and alternate captain Grant Garvin (9 goals, 16 assists, 25 points). He also leads the ESCHL in scoring, with sophomore linemates Quinn Ryan (7G, 15A, 22 points) and Brock Thompson (8G, 9A, 17 points) ranking second and fourth, respectively.
Cole Gammer got on track offensively in this past Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Bobcats, scoring the only two goals in the third period to get the Flames back in the game. Gammer (5G, 6A) moved ahead of fellow freshman forward Jordan Bochinski (3G, 6A) into fifth place among Liberty's scoring leaders, behind junior defenseman Zane Schartz (4G, 12A).
Liberty juniors Cole Burack (4-2, 1.33 goals-against average, 94.8 save percentage, two shutouts) and Josh Halpenny (4-2, 2.17 GAA, 91.4 SP, 1 SO) have been interchangeable in goal for the Flames this season.
"We've had great goaltending night-in and night-out," Handy said. "Halpenny and Cole are playing great."
Stony Brook scouting report: The Seawolves have climbed to No. 9 in the ACHA DI rankings and are in first place in the ESCHL standings at 6-0 after sweeping series against conference foes Rutgers, Rhode Island, and Delaware, winning five of those games on their home ice at The Rinx. Stony Brook also split two overtime matchups against Ohio in Bird Arena, winning the Oct. 21 rematch when leading scorer Bradley Riccardi (7G, 5A) netted the game-winner 15 seconds into the five-minute extra period.
Other double-digit scorers for the Seawolves are fellow forwards Kevin Murphy (5G, 6A), Ori Benyamini (4G, 7A), and Joey Slevin (3G, 8A) as well as defenseman Brendan Pepe, who has distributed a team-high 10 assists.
In goal, Stony Brook has leaned on Payne Yoder, who has gone 6-0 and posted two shutouts, boasting a 1.99 GAA and 93.1 SP in 360 minutes of play. He was named ESCHL player of the week after stopping 57 of Liberty's 58 shots and posting a shutout in a series sweep of the Flames last January in Long Island, N.Y. Backups Richard Shipman (2-0, 1.50 GAA, 95.2 SP) and Rob Lockwood (1-0, 1.95 GAA, 91.7 SP) also have allowed less than two goals per game in 180 combined minutes played between the pipes.
All-time series: Liberty, which dethroned the four-time defending champion Seawolves in last season's ESCHL Tournament final, still leads the series with Stony Brook, 21-13-3, even after losing eight of its past nine regular-season matchups.
Coaches: Handy, who is in his 18th season as Liberty's head coach after playing for the Flames from 1995-99, has compiled an overall record of 383-170-25. Chris Garofalo, who is in his eighth season as the Seawolves' head coach and 21st year as general manager after playing for Stony Brook from 1992-96, is 172-60-17 at the helm, including 121-25-7 since 2013.