Flames upset No. 1 Lakers in first round of ACHA DII tourney
March 21, 2014 | Marlborough, Mass.
Liberty University's ACHA Division II men's hockey team — the No. 4 seed out of the Southeast Region at the ACHA DII National Championships — dealt Grand Valley State University, the No. 1 seed out of the Central Region, a 3-2 overtime setback in Friday's first round of pool play at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Mass.
It's been eight years since the Flames (24-7-1) advanced to the ACHA DII National Championships, while the Lakers (19-8-2) won the 2011 national championship and finished runner-up the past two seasons.
"It's never easy playing the No. 1 seed in your pool, and one of the favorites in this tournament, in the first game," Flames Head Coach Chris Lowes said. "I like the way the team's competing and the energy level we're playing with. We can really turn this into some momentum that we can carry into the weekend. We'll have more confidence and should be able to build off it."
The Flames will face Northern Arizona in Saturday's second round of pool play, set for 2 p.m. New Hampshire defeated Northern Arizona, 3-1, in another first-round matchup. Schedules and results from all four of the tournament's pools is available online and all games are being webcast live on pay-per-view.
On Friday, Liberty senior forward Brad Docksteader received a pass from sophomore defenseman Nate Arbour along the left boards midway through the 10-minute overtime and slung a shot from a tough angle that glanced off the stick of Grand Valley State senior goalie Scott Tiefenthal inside the left post, sparking a joyous team celebration by the Flames.
"We've been preaching a lot about putting pucks in the crease and having guys go on net," Lowes said, noting three of the game's five goals were scored on fluke bounces or point-blank crashes in the crease.
Liberty junior goalie Cary Byron turned in perhaps the best performance of his career to sink the Lakers, making 41 saves, many of close-range shots on breakaways.
"Cary played very well, especially in the third period and overtime," Lowes said. "He didn't get a shutout, but essentially stopped all the shots that were stoppable."
Grand Valley State got on the scoreboard first as its power play expired with 3:18 left in the first period. Sophomore forward Tyler Stoller snuck in a shot from deep in the left crease as his front-line teammates crashed the cage, immobilizing Byron.
"There's no way to defend when there are guys driving you into the net," Lowes said. "It was a scrum and I thought the whistle should have been blown."
However, the Flames didn't cave in and actually established control of the tempo at the start of the second period.
"The first period, they had quite a bit of momentum, but they also had two power plays," Lowes said. "The second period, we couldn't get a goal on the five-on-three power play and we allowed them to scored late, which was a heartbreaker. But overall, the second period belonged to us."
Grand Valley State was called for icing with 1:40 left in the period and Liberty freshman forward Ben Freymond won the ensuing faceoff in the Lakers' defensive end back to sophomore forward Jeff Boschman. He slid the puck through the slot to Arbour, who finished with a backhanded shot in the right crease, knotting the game at 1-1.
After the Lakers were called for two more icing infractions in the final minute, Grand Valley sophomore forward Jacob Endicott started a transition out of his defensive zone into the left circle where he chipped the puck off a skate and it flipped up and over Byron inside the right post for a 2-1 edge heading into the third period.
Again, the Flames regrouped and came out firing on all cylinders to start the third period, when they netted the equalizer just 16 seconds after the opening faceoff, capitalizing on a Lakers turnover.
Liberty freshman forward Devon Docksteader controlled the puck in the left corner and pivoted to make a backhanded centering pass to sophomore forward Paul Ingles, who put it away by one-timing a shot past Tiefenthal.
"Ingles was really firing," Lowes said. "He was on his game and his line gave us our best possessions."
Grand Valley State outshot Liberty 43-31, but the Flames generated nearly as many quality scoring opportunities.
"They out-chanced us when it came to odd-man rushes," Lowes said.
But Byron was able to make the initial saves and control the rebounds, which allowed the Flames to slow down the play by setting up faceoffs.
"We weathered their storms and put some sustained pressure on their goal," Lowes said.
Liberty wasn't the only team in the tournament to stage an upset in Friday's first round as New York University knocked off Florida Gulf Coast University, the No. 1 seed out of the Southeast Region, 4-3, on an adjacent rink.