Men’s D2 hockey falls to Iowa at ACHA National Tournament

In its quest for the 2023 ACHA National title, the Liberty men’s D2 team dropped game one of pool play to the Iowa Hawkeyes 3-2. An immense flurry of shots on goal from the Flames proved insufficient to get by Iowa’s star sophomore goaltender, Justin Howard.

In the first period, both teams seemed content to stare down the other and wait for the first mistake, and it would be the Flames who would flinch first. A late rotation from Flames sophomore goaltender Lane Skon on a tough shot from the Hawkeyes would put the Flames down 1-0.

Six minutes later, the Flames had the opportunity to answer back on their first power play of the game, and they would do just that. Sophomore winger David Hauke was able to get his stick around in time to send a wild rebound into the back of the net, tying up the game at 1.

Coming out of the first intermission, the Hawkeyes got as many bodies as they could to clog the lane in front of Skon, and they were able to reclaim the lead off a rebound that Skon simply could not have gotten to.

Down 2-1, the Flames seemed to become a whole new team, and one wholly on the attack. Led by sophomore center Roman Lamoureux, the Flames ramped up their speed and aggression in the offensive zone, but it was all for naught as they were shut out of the period by the Hawkeyes, who heavily relied on the superb play of Howard in the cage.

The third period looked much like the second until freshman forward Thomas Kayner was able to send a wrister into the net that tied the game up yet again. All momentum seemed to be on the Liberty bench until the Hawkeyes slammed the door on them with another well-timed goal.

“I mean, it’s tough to lose,” Flames Head Coach Ben Hughes said postgame.  “I think it’s the natural thing for most teams here at nationals to do something that you probably don’t normally do. To be honest, I think it took us a while to get into a groove and find our game tonight. I mean, in credit to Iowa, they’re just a heavy, hard team to play.”

The Flames fall to 0-1 in pool play and rank third in Pool A. That pool consists of Liberty, Iowa, Utah St. and Northeastern. Each team will play two more games, after which they will have played each team in the pool, and the winner of the pool will be decided. Said winner will advance to the final four and, hopefully, the championship.

Liberty looks ahead now to game two of pool play against Utah State, who is coming off of a blowout defeat at the hands of Northeastern, who beat them 5-0. The Flames have yet to play Utah State this season and are looking to use this first matchup to launch themselves back into the win column.

“We got to find a way to just shake this one off,” Hughes said. “It’s easy to just kind of dwell, especially when you lose one game. You think it’s completely over. We’ve been through this before. We’ve lost the first game before, and we found ourselves in a place to still move on in the third game. Still, we have to control just what we can control.”

The puck drops in game two at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, March 18. The game will be streamed exclusively on Hockey TV.

Palsgrove is the asst. sports editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *