DI Flames welcome former ESCHL rival Blue Hens for Top-25 matchups
Liberty University’s ACHA Division I men’s hockey team — which pulled off a dramatic sweep of Michigan-Dearborn last weekend — returns to the LaHaye Ice Center for a Homecoming Weekend battle with former Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League rival Delaware.
“It will be fun,” Flames senior forward Josh Fricks said. “Delaware will be a good team and we will probably have an electric crowd again.”
Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy was happy to see the resilience in this season’s squad, which rallied from a 2-0 deficit at the end of the first period by scoring three times in the first three minutes of the second stanza to win last Friday’s opener against the Wolverines, 3-2.
Handy called his charges “cardiac kids” after the showdown between Top-10-ranked teams that had advanced to the past two ACHA DI National Championship Frozen Fours. “Our guys came back and stuck with it, and I was proud of them,” he said. “I give our guys a lot of credit for battling back.”
The Flames then went a perfect five-for-five on the penalty kill and converted three out of five power-play opportunities in a 5-2 “Midnight Mayhem” rematch played in front of a raucous, full-capacity crowd.
Liberty remained at No. 3 in this week’s ACHA DI national rankings while Michigan-Dearborn moved up two spots to No. 6. Delaware, which didn’t play any games during the 2020-21 season, comes in at No. 24 after outscoring opponents by a 21-9 margin through its first three games.
“We are looking forward to it,” Handy said.
Scouting Preview for Games 5-6: No. 24 Delaware (3-1) at No. 3 Liberty (4-0), Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the LaHaye Ice Center (LIC). Both games will be streamed live by the Liberty Flames Sports Network (LFSN) and carried on ESPN+, with links to Friday’s and Saturday’s games highlighted here.
All-Time Series: Liberty leads Delaware, 28-18-2, and is riding a 15-game winning streak against the Blue Hens after sweeping all five meetings over the 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 seasons, including all three clashes in the ESCHL playoffs.
Liberty Scouting Report: After getting hat tricks from freshman forward Truett Olson and junior forward Matt Bartel in opening-weekend wins over Indiana University of Pennsylvania and North Carolina State, respectively, the Flames scored by committee against Michigan-Dearborn. Liberty got eight goals from seven players — senior defenseman Colin Baird and sophomore forwards DJ Schwenke and Kam Ottenbreit in the opener and sophomore forward Jason Foltz, Baird, Fricks, and freshmen forwards Jacob Kalandyk and Jackson Vercellono in the rematch.
Senior goalie Hunter Virostek started both games against the Wolverines, allowing just four goals, bringing his goals-against average to 1.33.
Delaware Scouting Report: The Blue Hens did not play at all in the 2020-21 season, but has jumped out to a fast start this fall, sweeping Oakland by 8-1 and 7-2 scores in Rochester, Mich., this past weekend after opening the season with a 3-2 and 3-4 split with Pittsburgh at the Fred Rust Arena in Newark, Del.
Offensively, Gavin Husler and Jake Nimeh have each distributed four assists while fellow forwards Ryan Luppe, Ryan Rodrigues, Colin Emerich, and Brian Ostrander each have netted two goals. Corbyn Gustafson and Max Weinman platoon between the pipes for the Blue Hens.
Coaches: Handy is in his 22nd season at the helm of the Flames with a career record of 481-190-29, joining the 700 club for games coached. Todd Mittelmeier was promoted to Delaware’s head coach in the middle of the 2018-19 season and sports a 36-31-1 record since then.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer