DII Flames open season by sweeping Ohio State in first clashes in more than a decade
In the first meeting between Liberty University’s ACHA Division II men’s hockey team and Ohio State in more than 10 years, the Flames swept the Buckeyes in their season-opening series at the LaHaye Ice Center (LIC), winning by 5-3 and 3-2 scores.
Liberty struck first in Friday’s late-night opener when freshman forward Josh Martin stole the puck near the Buckeyes’ blue line and passed it to junior forward Trevor Granzow who skated into the left crease and tucked an assist back in front to Mark Padgett for the point-blank finish with 4:19 left in the first period.
Then, with 8:24 left in the second period, Martin deflected Granzow’s shot on a Flames’ fast break through the five hole of Ohio State’s goalie, doubling Liberty’s lead to 2-0 before the Flames extended it to 3-0 on a power play snipe of a shot through the slot by freshman forward Thomas Kayner at the 4:49 mark.
“We were in the lead the whole time, after we started off the game killing two penalties right off the bat,” Liberty Head Coach Ben Hughes said.
With 31 seconds left in the period, the Buckeyes got on the scoreboard with a power-play goal of their own when Jordan Hoy beat Liberty senior goalie Stephen Sanders from a sharp angle on the left side. Ohio State cut the deficit to 3-2 with another goal on the man advantage, by Valentino Carriero this time, with 17:12 to play in the third. However, exactly two minutes later, junior forward Roman Lamoureux sent a backhanded assist from the right corner into Richard Indermill for a finish that gave the Flames some breathing room, up 4-2.
Sophomore forward and head captain Josh Harrell capped Liberty’s scoring with an open-cage power-play putback off a shot by sophomore right wing Cooper Neal with 5:20 remaining in regulation before Carriero responded with a putback of his own 14 seconds later, making it a 5-3 final.
“They’ve got a pretty skilled and mature team as well and are poised to be a top team in the Southeast Region,” Hughes said of the Buckeyes, who outshot the Flames, 36-35 for the contest. “They have a lot of firepower, a lot of guys who can shoot the puck well, and make a lot of moves. It took us a little bit to find momentum, but it felt like we sustained a lot of possession of the puck toward the end of the game.”
OSU seized an early lead in Saturday afternoon’s rematch with Jimmy Gold cashing in on a sliding rebound finish near the left post with 12:32 to play in the first period.
Just 3:20 later, the Flames netted the equalizer on junior defenseman Cameron Tobey’s one-timed shot through the slot into the lower-left corner of the net off a crossing feed from sophomore center David Hauke. Then, Liberty got the game-winner a minute later when Harrell received a fast-break feed from Granzow across the slot and lifted a wrist shot from the right crease into the upper netting for a 2-1 advantage with 8:05 left in the first.
The two teams went scoreless for nearly 48 minutes before the Buckeyes pulled their goalie for the final minute and sophomore defenseman Rece Poulin sent a backhanded clear from deep in the Flames’ defensive zone into the open net with 22 seconds to go. Carriero pulled OSU back within one goal by capitalizing on a 2-on-0 break off the ensuing faceoff five seconds later, beating Liberty sophomore goalie Lane Skon, who recorded the win.
“Both goalies played this weekend, and both played great,” Hughes said, noting Sanders made 33 saves in the opener and Skon 24 in the rematch as the Flames outshot the Buckeyes, 35-26. “They kept us in it at different times in the game, making some big-time saves,”
“Overall, our guys rallied and dug deep, and we got goals all throughout the lineup, which speaks to our potential for depth,” Hughes said. “For the first weekend of games, we played well together as a team. Collectively, we were all bought into playing together, which was a cool thing for a coach to see, against a team that is very likely to be at nationals. The camaraderie with the team and chemistry developed within all the players shows the maturity of the overall team.”
He met with his captains on Monday morning to discuss areas where the Flames can improve.
“We talked about game-planning, and getting a better direction of where we need to continue to develop,” Hughes said. “Now it’s easier to work on that as we have a basis and video of what we’ve done. That’s the funnest part, tweaking and getting better at things in practices throughout the week.”
Liberty, which is playing an independent schedule for the first time in several years, will host former MACH rival Delaware this Friday at 10:15 p.m. and Saturday at 4:30 p.m. back at the LIC.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Videos by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media