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    September 29, 2021 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Fresh off last weekend’s sweep of the Washington Pride U19 travel team, Liberty University’s ACHA Division I women’s hockey team opens its regular season with a rematch of its third consecutive DI National Championship final victory — against Lindenwood University this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the LaHaye Ice Center.

    “We are looking in good shape heading into the weekend and are excited for the rematch,” Lady Flames Assistant Coach Justin Forth said. “We know they’ll be hungry for redemption, and we always like playing the Lions. They’re a tough, gritty team that makes us better.”

    Liberty tied Lindenwood for ACHA records with its third consecutive and fourth overall national title this year on April 19 in Minot, N.D. The Lions were the only team to beat the Lady Flames last season — 2-0 in their Jan. 23 opener, their first shutout loss in seven seasons — after winning four exhibition games against the Pride in the fall semester.

    In 2019-20, when Liberty finished 28-3 before being denied their first chance to three-peat at nationals due to COVID-19, two of their three losses came at the hands of Lindenwood-Belleville. The Lynx folded as a program the following season, with many of their players transferring to Lindenwood’s main campus.

    “They’ve been able to find a way to beat our high-octane offense in the past, but I’m thankful we’ve been able to win the games that counted the most,” Forth said of last season’s final against the Lions and the 2019 championship game against the Lynx, capping a season in which the Lady Flames finished 35-1-3.

    Lindenwood opened this season with a series split against Miami (Ohio) University, which could be another ACHA favorite this season after winning three out of four national titles from 2014-17.

    “They graduated one of their leading scorers (Marissa) Delry and Lindsay Gillis, one of the top four defenseman in the whole league, but they’ve got a bunch of new freshmen,” Forth said, noting that he expects the Lions to be in the top four for the first ACHA DI women’s hockey national rankings, which won’t be released until late October. “We always like playing the other top-five ranked teams.”

    Graduate forward and head captain Vanessa DeMerchant scored a highlight-reel goal in Sunday’s 12-2 humbling of the Pride.

    After winning the opener against the Pride, 3-2, the Lady Flames’ offense caught fire in Sunday’s rematch, winning 12-2. Liberty got hat tricks from freshman forward Haley Battles — who had a highlight reel goal in the third period — and graduate forward Shelby Bradford, as well as a spectacular score by graduate forward and head captain Vanessa DeMerchant.

    “Our execution was obviously a lot better on Sunday,” Forth said. “The girls responded really well from the message we gave them (after Saturday night’s game) and our offense was on full display that day. We did a little better job in the offensive zone.”

    Sophomore goalie Kylie Mebs made 27 saves as Liberty outshot Lindenwood, 51-29.

    Forth expects a much stiffer test from the Lions this weekend.

    “The Washington Pride has a good little program, but they are younger kids playing against basically grown women,” he said. “Lindenwood is going to come in ready to battle, really on all fronts, and will; push our defensemen to their limits and give our forwards that extra little shot that maybe Washington didn’t. Our girls are ready and they’re up for the challenge.”

     

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer