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    March 17, 2022 Maryland Heights, Mo. RSS |

    With a “Frozen Four” appearance in the ACHA Division II men’s hockey National Championships on the line, Lindenwood University, the No. 1 seed in Pool A, held a home-ice advantage on No. 2-seeded Liberty University for Wednesday’s final round of pool play at the Centene Community Ice Center in Maryland Heights, Mo.

    The Lions used it to prevail, 4-2, fending off a Flames comeback bid to advance to face the defending ACHA DII national champion University of Mary, a 3-1 winner over Northeastern in their Pool D final played late Wednesday night.

    “It was a hard-fought game and we left it all out there,” said Liberty fifth-year Head Coach Ben Hughes, who welcomed 10 freshmen to this season’s 25-man squad and has high hopes for the future of the program. “They’re always going to be one of the top teams in the nation and we are, as well, and it was a really back-and-forth game. There were a lot of times where we felt we were in control and times when they were in control. I’m just really proud of how the guys competed.”

    Freshman forward Josh Harrell scored the Flames’ first goal against Lindenwood.

    The Flames (26-8, ranked third in the nation) had won the only previous meeting with the Lions (26-7-2, ranked fifth) this season, 5-3, in the third game of the Lindenwood Showcase played in Centene Center’s outdoor rink, when the host team rallied from a three-goal deficit to make it a one-goal game, as Liberty did on Wednesday.

    The Lions struck first when forward Bobby Bruss netted his 27th goal of the season from point-blank range off an assist from Stanley Lucas with 14:37 left in the first period before Nils Tofilovski padded Lindenwood’s lead to 2-0 with 8:18 to go, beating senior goalie Dakota Cyhaniuk with a shot in the left circle on a counterattack.

    Then with 16:03 left in the second, after killing off a Liberty power play, the Lions seized a commanding 3-0 advantage when Declan Carter cleaned up the rebound of a shot by Nick Thorpe near the right post.

    “Lindenwood got up too early on us and we weren’t able to fight back and get enough goals on the board,” Hughes said after Lindenwood outshot the Flames, 38-25. “We definitely showed up and had a lot of opportunities and created a lot of chances.”

    Lindenwood goalie Trever Osborne (14-2, 1.95 GAA) smothered a scoring chance by the Flames a minute after the Lions scored their third goal. Then, moments after Liberty killed off a penalty, freshman forward Josh Harrell got the Flames on the scoreboard by putting away a short pass from freshman defenseman Jared Matley with 9:03 to play in the second period.

    Liberty senior forward Justin Barstead skates the puck up ice against Montana State.

    Already playing without senior forward Peyton Nash and freshman defenseman Rece Poulin, sidelined with upper-body injuries, Liberty lost senior defenseman and head captain Maxx Mitchell, who was ejected after a fight broke out in the aftermath of the Flames’ first goal.

    Liberty drew within 3-2 on senior forward and alternate captain Darren Carter’s shot from the top of the left circle off a fast-break feed from sophomore defenseman Daniel Hauke with 15:34 remaining in regulation, and had a few quality chances to net the equalizer thwarted by Osborne.

    The Flames pulled Cyhaniuk (34 saves) to get the man advantage with 1:55 to go before Tofiloyski all but clinched the win with his second score, an empty-netter at the 1:43 mark after skating just inside Liberty’s blue line along the left boards. With the Flames on a 6-on-4 power play after a Lindenwood penalty, Osborne made three spectacular saves in the closing seconds to maintain the two-goal lead.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media, edited by Kylee Ligle/Club Sports Video & Media Assistant

    Junior forward Josh Wagner skates in Tuesday’s 7-2 victory over Montana State.