DI Lady Flames record third straight shutout on home ice
December 1, 2017 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's ACHA Division I women's hockey team extended its winning streak to 16 games with a 4-0 victory over Grand Valley State on Friday night at the LaHaye Ice Center.
It was the Lady Flames' first home series in a month and a half after playing 13 of their past 15 games on the road.
"We were all super excited just to be able to play in our own rink," Liberty senior forward C.J. Tipping said. "It was really nice to have home-ice advantage. The attitude on the bench and in the dressing room was unbelievable. We came together as a team today.
The Lady Flames have still yet to be scored on by an ACHA team in the friendly confines of LaHaye this fall, stretching their shutout streak to three games after junior goalie Kelly Hutton made 17 saves to post her third shutout of the season. Hutton lowered her goals-against average to 1.00, lowest in ACHA Division I.
Liberty (16-2, 14-0 ACHA) struck first with 7:24 left in the first period when sophomore forward Alex Smibert controlled the puck on the inside edge of the left circle set up by sophomore forward Deena Birney and senior forward Chelsey Greenwood. Left all alone, Smibert lifted a wrist shot past Lakers goalie Lauren Allen into the top left corner of the cage for a 1-0 edge.
After failing to capitalize on back-to-back power plays early in the second period, the Lady Flames padded their lead to 2-0 with just 55 seconds left in the stanza when junior forward Lauren McDonald dumped the puck off a defenseman's stick and it deflected up to Tipping, whose shot from the high slot through traffic in front slipped past Allen stick-side.
"A goal right before the end of a period is always a momentum boost," Tipping said. "It was almost like the puck went over girl and it kind of parted the sea and it was an open shot for me. (The defense) split and then there was traffic, so the goalie didn't really expect the shot."
The Lady Flames got some more breathing room at the 16:15 mark of the third period when McDonald stuck back a rebound of sophomore defenseman Dana McLeod's shot from the point from a sharp angle right of the net for a 3-0 advantage. McDonald leads Liberty and is now tied for fifth in ACHA DI in scoring with 14 goals and 12 assists.
Finally, in the closing seconds of a power play, sophomore forward Tiana Lisle capped the scoring with her fifth goal of the season, beating Allen top shelf with an open shot from the high slot with 12:11 to go in the game.
"We knew that we had to pepper the goalie with shots and put them on net, and that's exactly what we started doing," Tipping said after Liberty outshot the Lakers 47-17.
No. 11-ranked Grand Valley State (1-6-2) was 1-1-2 in its previous four games, starting with a win over No. 10 Michigan. The Lakers dealt Liberty a 4-2 setback in the teams' only meeting last season at a neutral site (UMass's Mullins Center). The Lady Flames outshot Grand Valley, 61-19, in that contest. Before that, the Lady Flames doubled up Grand Valley State, 6-3, to reach the semifinals of the 2016 National Championships before falling to Miami (Ohio) in overtime.
"Grand Valley has historically been a struggle for us," Tipping said, joking that Liberty's players say they don't look forward to playing the Lakers. "It's fun to play them. … We've always had to really battle against them." Comparatively, she added, other more highly ranked teams have not always put up as much of a fight.
Saturday's rematch with the Lakers is set for 1 p.m. back at LaHaye.
Before Friday night's game, Liberty observed a moment of silence for former standout forward Sarah Stevenson ('15) who died on Oct. 31 in Ontario. The Lady Flames also sported memorial stickers in her honor that all five Liberty hockey teams will wear on their helmets for the rest of the season.
"Our season is now dedicated specifically to her," Tipping said.