DII Lady Flames' season highlighted by first CHE crown
March 17, 2019 | Johnstown, Pa.
Liberty University's ACHA DII women's hockey team celebrated its first-ever College Hockey East (CHE) Tournament championship over the weekend at 1st Summit Arena in Johnstown, Pa. The win caps the most successful season in program history, as the Lady Flames did not earn a return trip to next week's ACHA Division II National Championships.
Graduate forward Cat (Burrell) Kelenic (four goals, two assists) and senior forward Chelsey Greenwood (two goals, three assists), who played key roles in Liberty's first ACHA Division I national title in 2015, ignited the Lady Flames (19-3-1) to a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Buffalo in Saturday's semifinals and a 5-1 rout of Delaware in Sunday's final.
"Last year, Buffalo was the team that bumped us out of the CHE playoffs and beat us again in our pool at nationals, so it was good to beat them," Lady Flames Head Coach Rena Leone said.
The Lady Flames' only losses this season came against Bishops (Ontario) University (11-3) — the top-ranked team in the East Region which beat Liberty twice — and fifth-ranked Mercyhurst (18-4), which received the CHE's autobid to nationals.
The Lady Flames finished ranked seventh in the East Region, with the top six teams earning nationals bids.
On Saturday, Liberty opened a 1-0 lead on the Bulls 10 minutes into the first period when freshman forward Paige Arnosti scored off an assist from Kelenic. Buffalo (16-2-1) answered to tie the game two and a half minutes later before seizing a 2-1 lead with 1:52 left in the second period.
|Cat (Burrell) Kelenic is one of the Lady Flames' seven players who concluded their careers with a CHE title.|
But Kelenic netted the equalizer with 3:37 left in regulation, finishing feeds from sophomore defenseman Sarah LaPorte and sophomore forward Kira Rice. Lady Flames senior Chelsey Greenwood scored the game-winner unassisted exactly two minutes later.
In Sunday's championship game, the Blue Hens (17-5-1) scored first just 1:17 after the opening faceoff before Kelenic responded to tie it up precisely four minutes later.
Kelenic scored the go-ahead goal at the 7:27 mark of the period, tipping in Greenwood's shot, before completing her hat trick on a putback with 9:32 left in the second period off assists from Rice and Greenwood.
Junior forward Shelby Burden stretched the Lady Flames' lead to 4-1 by finishing through the five-hole off assists from senior forward Kaitlyn Langabeer and Greenwood with 6:44 to go in the second. Greenwood capped the scoring 1:20 into the third off assists from freshman forward Maddie Niederer and Kelenic. The Lady Flames outshot the Blue Hens, 54-14, for the game and goalie Kelly Hutton, one of seven seniors on the 17-player roster, made 13 saves to preserve the victory.
"It was a good team effort and they were all playing for each other," Leone said. "It was a great way to end the season."