Close weekend hockey matches
Fast skating and aggressive play were showcased in the LaHaye Ice Center this weekend as Liberty University lost two hard-fought, unlucky competitions against the University of Delaware.
Liberty faced an imposing challenge to try to outscore the notoriously speedy Delaware team that is undefeated in regulation time.
Friday night’s game started out well for Liberty, featuring two power plays for the squad in the first six minutes of the first period.
The period was scoreless until Delaware’s Brandon Weiner put the puck past Liberty goaltender Blair Bennett with just 2 minutes 19 seconds remaining.
The second period began well for Delaware. Just over a minute into the period, Delaware’s Ryan McDonald gave his team a two-goal lead.
Liberty’s Rick Turner put his team back in the game with a goal at 3:08 remaining in the period, sliding the puck into the bottom right corner of the net past a sprawling Delaware goaltender Nick Casella.
Liberty coach Kirk Handy said that he thought Liberty took that momentum into the last part of the second period. The team planned to bring the same intensity into the third.
Forwards Adam Docksteader and Stephen Moller had a 2-on-1 scoring opportunity early in the third period, but Delaware’s McDonald was first to change the score. He netted his second goal of the night at 10:23, making the score 3-1 for Delaware.
Docksteader narrowed the margin to 3-2 with a goal at 4:41 remaining.
Liberty continued to fight, trying to force overtime. With just over a minute left in the period, Liberty pulled its goaltender in favor of an extra skater. With the seconds ticking away, Liberty peppered Delaware’s goalie with shots, but was unable to tie the game.
Liberty outshot its opponent 39-33 despite the loss.
“I felt like we worked hard throughout pretty much the whole game. (Delaware) got some lucky bounces and that’s what cost us (the win),” sophomore forward Matt Sylvester said.
Saturday’s game had a promising start for Liberty. After staving off Delaware scoring chances and killing a penalty during which Bennett had to play without a stick, Liberty took the lead with Turner’s quick goal off of the faceoff. Bennett was solid in goal, keeping the score at 1-0 in Liberty’s favor at the end of the first period.
The second period was a physical battle filled with penalties and a few scuffles. The offense for both teams also played aggressively. Liberty had multiple chances from the faceoffs and forward Andrew McCombe had a near breakaway, but Delaware’s Chris Galgano came up with the goal at 3:46 after Bennett had kept the Delaware team off the scoreboard for nearly 40 minutes.
Liberty started the third period strong on the power play. The team showed good control, but was unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
At 17:57, Delaware’s Nicholas LePore was credited for a controversial goal. The ice center erupted with sounds of disapproval, most fans thinking that the net had been moved before the puck crossed the goal line, but the goal was allowed.
Liberty put pressure on Delaware’s goaltender, trying to even out the scoreboard once more. McDonald tipped the scales further with a goal at 14:53, beating Bennett on the short side.
Liberty once again found itself down 3-1 in the third period. At 11:28, the deficit was made worse when the puck rolled past Liberty players and between Bennett’s pads off the stick of Delaware’s Andre Menard.
With 7:12 remaining, Liberty was given a 29-second 5-on-3 power play opportunity. Forward Joe Smith took advantage of the chance, netting the puck before the first penalty ran out so that Liberty would stay on the power play for another 1:41 of play.
Jonathan Chung brought the score to 4-3 with just 2:05 remaining in the game, giving Liberty fans hope.
The remainder of the game was a battle for Liberty to take possession of the puck long enough to create a scoring chance. Unfortunately, time was not on Liberty’s side and the final buzzer blared with the score still at 4-3.
Both teams put forth good effort in the matches.
“We knew they were a good team,” McCombe said. “[Our] game plan was to outwork them, which I think we did. [The score] just didn’t turn out.”
Liberty’s record is 7-7 after the weekend. The team looks to improve on Nov. 12 and 13 against Stony Brook University at the LaHaye Ice Center.