LU hockey player hospitalized after breaking bones two places in his neck

Prayer is powerful. That seemed to be the theme of the weekend for the Liberty men’s DI hockey team. 

Liberty was swept by the UNLV Rebels, but the losses were overshadowed by an off-the-ice victory as senior forward Josh Fricks made a miraculous recovery.

Fricks was injured early in Friday’s game against the Rebels after a hard hit in the first period led to him being carried off the ice. He was airlifted to Roanoke and underwent a lengthy procedure in the early hours of Saturday morning. 

After an abundance of prayer from not only Flames Nation but the entire ACHA hockey community, Liberty hockey posted an update on social media. Fricks explained to viewers that he broke bones two places in his neck, but he had regained movement on his left side before thanking fans and friends for prayers.

“We’re very thankful,” Head Coach Kirk Handy said regarding the update video. “God’s done a miracle so far. We just continue to pray that things are gonna continue trending in the right direction. … I believe the guys will continue to rally around Josh (Fricks). He’s part of our team whether he’s on the ice or not.”

Before the action was underway at the LaHaye Ice Center for the third and final “Midnight Mayhem” game of the semester, both teams gathered at center ice as Fricks’ father led the pregame prayer.

Eager to earn their first win since the winter break, the Flames didn’t get off to the start they wanted, with two early penalties allowing UNLV’s Max Johnson to net one less than five minutes into the game. 

Liberty responded with just under eight minutes left in the first period. Senior captain Colin Baird sent a long shot to the back of the net, and the sold-out ice center erupted. 

The second period saw a big scuffle unfold around the Flames goaltender, freshman mid-season transfer Jackson Glassford. Three penalties were dished out, two on Liberty, and UNLV scored during a 4-on-3 power play with 13:52 left in the period. This ignited a Rebel run, and UNLV buried two goals in three minutes to extend the lead to 4-1. 

Despite the deficit, fans continued to be enthusiastic as the third period began. Yet another Rebel score occurred with 14:07 left in the game before freshman Laz Kaebel netted a goal to make it 5-2. Any hope for a comeback was extinguished when the Rebels scored once again with 3:02 remaining. 

“I think there’s more (fight) in there,” Handy said about the game. “I think there’s a lot more in there. It wasn’t where we needed it to be for sure. We had chances, and we just couldn’t bury. We had some good looks on the power play and were just unable to (convert). We’re a fine hockey team, and we’re gonna be okay, but we got outworked tonight.”

The two losses this weekend mark back-to-back sweeps to start the semester, and the Flames have lost four straight with their toughest stretch ahead. However, Liberty junior forward Jason Foltz has hope for the near future. 

“As soon as everyone plays their role that they’re supposed to and come together as a team like we did on the road at UNLV, there’s no way we should lose (to) any teams,” Foltz said. “The goal is we’re fighting for the Lord, and we’re fighting for our faith. … It just comes down to that work ethic and doing all the small things right.”

Liberty will head north to New York to face off against No. 17 Stony Brook on Jan 28-29. After their clash with the Seawolves, the Flames’ six remaining games will all be challenging home contests, as each of the top three teams in the ACHA take turns visiting the LaHaye Ice Center.

Foltz views this as an opportunity for the team to become more disciplined and prepare for the postseason. 

“Especially at nationals, if you’re gonna go take five or six penalties a game, you’re screwed,” Foltz said. “Teams are gonna bury at least one or two of those, and power plays don’t come often in those situations. These last eight games are gonna be like a playoff game would be, so we’ve got to be super disciplined.”

Barnes is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on Twitter

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