DII Flames stage dramatic three-game sweep in Liberty Showcase
Liberty University’s ACHA Division II men’s hockey team swept its showcase over the weekend at the LaHaye Ice Center, winning all three games against Florida Gulf Coast University, UMass-Amherst, and Trine University by one goal.
The Flames (9-1) will find out where they debut in the season’s first ACHA DII Southeast Region rankings this week after edging regional rival FGCU, 3-2, on Friday night, Northeast Region power UMass-Amherst, 3-2 in overtime, on Saturday night, and Central Region foe Trine, 2-1, on Sunday afternoon.
In Friday’s opener against the Eagles (6-2), junior forward Josh Wagner started the scoring with a backhanded putback of freshman defenseman Jared Matley’s shot from along the left boards for a 1-0 lead just 3:11 after the opening faceoff.
FGCU answered just over 10 minutes later on leading scorer Christopher Melendez’s backhanded wrist shot in the left crease that got past Flames senior goalie Dakota Cyhaniuk to the upper netting.
Graduate forward Josh Malin gave the Flames a 2-1 lead at the 13:15 mark of the second period, crashing into Eagles goalie Ryan Nussbaum as he finished off a fast-break counterattack feed from senior forward Peyton Nash. But again, FGCU netted the equalizer just 1:34 before the second intermission on Thomas Zebley’s top-shelf putback of Melendez’s shot from the slot that struck the crossbar.
Finally, just 2:32 into the third period, Malin capitalized on the game-winner, finishing yet another rebound, this time in the left crease off a shot from senior forward Justin Barstead.
For the game, FGCU outshot Liberty 31-25 and Cyhaniuk made 29 saves to preserve the win for the Flames.
Liberty had to overcome a 2-0 first-period deficit to give UMass-Amherst (10-0-1) the first blemish on its season after the Minutemen needed less than a minute to net the game’s first goal by leading scorer Shamus Lombard off a cross-crease assist from Sean Prendergast. Lombard put away his second score off the putback of a shot by defenseman Jared Simmons at the 2:48 mark before Flames sophomore forward Roman Lamoureux netted his team-leading eighth goal of the season 1:25 later.
With Liberty on a power play, Lamoureux skated the puck from behind his own cage up the right wing before cutting across the slot and lifting a wrist shot from just inside the left circle past UMass-Amherst goalie Alexander Moore, trimming the deficit to 2-1.
Nash tipped in senior defenseman Maxx Mitchell’s shot from the high slot — set up by a cross-ice pass from sophomore forward Trevor Granzow — into the upper netting, tying the contest at 2-2 with 14:22 left in the second period. After a scoreless third, the Flames needed just over a minute of the five-minute three-on-three overtime period to convert the winning score when Nash deflected in an assist from freshman forward Luke Tucker before being mobbed by his teammates along the boards.
Liberty outshot UMass-Amherst by a 37-31 count and Cyhaniuk again made 29 saves before being relieved by freshman Luke Skon for the final period against Trine on Sunday and the two goalies combined for 31 saves as the Flames were outshot, 32-28.
Trine (7-5) struck first by capitalizing on a turnover deep in Liberty’s end with 8:24 to go in the second period as Joey Lajcaj set up Grant Dickinson’s shot from the left circle that beat Cyhaniuk for a 1-0 lead.
The Flames saved their most dramatic win of the weekend for last, converting the game-tying and game-winning goals in the final 1:07 of regulation. With Liberty on a power play and increasing its man advantage to six-on-four by pulling Skon, Wagner netted the equalizer on a putback of senior forward Tim Doe shot from the top of the right circle. Finally, with 13 seconds remaining in regulation, Doe fed Nash on a fast-break counterattack and he skated in and beat Trine goalie Tyler Klatt with a top-shelf wrist shot from the right crease for his third goal of the weekend.
Liberty will be back in action against Central Region power Miami (Ohio) University (12-0) this Friday at 9:50 p.m. and Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the LIC.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Videos by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media