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    October 16, 2021 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    After staging a 5-2 upset of reigning ACHA Division II men’s hockey national champion Mary (N.D.) University in Thursday’s opener of its three-game series against the Maruaders at the LaHaye Ice Center (LIC), Liberty University’s men’s DII team withstood a furious pushback in Friday’s second game to emerge as 4-1 winners before Mary dominated Game 3 on Saturday, 6-1.

    Mary (6-2) finished 3-0-2 against the Flames (4-1) last season, eliminating them from the ACHA DII “Frozen Four” in a 7-0 semifinal rout on its home ice on April 19 before blanking Iowa State in the final the next day.

    Flames freshman forward Cooper Neal is surrounded by Marauders defenders and goalie Kyle Hayden.

    “U of Mary is an incredible team,” Liberty fifth-year Head Coach Ben Hughes said after Friday’s second game. “They move the puck so well and they’re so poised with it and make really great decisions. I think we were very, very fortunate to come out with a win tonight, but credit to our guys. They didn’t get very many chances, but they still found a way to put the puck in the net.”

    With Liberty on the penalty kill, the Flames jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a beautiful breakaway finish by freshman forward Joshua Harell, who lifted a wrist shot into the top right corner past Marauders goalie Kyle Hayden for the shorthanded score with 11:01 left in the first period.

    Just 2:03 later, JD George received a cross-ice pass from fellow senior defenseman Charlie Wilkie at the top of the right circle and fired a shot on net that senior forward Darren Carter tipped into the top of the cage, extending Liberty’s lead to 2-0.

    Mary trimmed the deficit to 2-1 when Tanner Eskro backhanded a putback of an odd-man rush past Flames senior goalie Dakota Cyhaniuk from out in front, before Liberty stretched its lead to 3-1 with 1:13 left in the second period when junior forward Josh Wagner one-timed the rebound of a shot by freshman forward Luke Tucker past Hayden from deep in the right circle.

    Cyhaniuk barely preserved the two-goal lead early in the third period when the Maurauders swarmed the net until it got knocked off its moorings, then saved a shorthanded breakaway opportunity by Mary with a quick-reaction glove save. With 9:20 remaining in regulation, Cyhaniuk blocked Alex Flicek’s backhanded shot from deep in the left crease with his facemask, then repelled multiple shots over the next two minutes.

    “A lot of the credit goes to Dakota,” Hughes said of his ACHA DII All-American goalie. “He made some unbelievable saves that honestly should have probably been goals. He stood on his head for us like he always does.”

    After Mary pulled Hayden in the final two minutes, Flames sophomore forward Trevor Granzow put the finishing touches on the second-game triumph, firing a wrist shot from near the red line into the top right corner of the cage after receiving an assist from senior defenseman Maxx Mitchell, who had stolen the puck, at the 1:33 mark.

    In Thursday night’s opener, senior forward Peyton Nash ignited the Flames attack by scoring just 28 seconds into the second period before George padded the advantage to 2-0 less than four minutes later.

    The Mauraders retaliated with a goal by Isaiah Thomas with 8:41 left in the period off an assist from Drew Lenertz before Flames senior forward Timothy Doe capitalized on a power play for a 3-1 Liberty lead at the 2:04 mark.

    Just under 6:00 into the third period, Harell stretched the lead to 4-1 before Mary pulled Hayden with less than 4:00 remaining in regulation and cut the gap to 4-2 on a goal by Marshall Tschida with 2:49 to play. However, Graznow put Game 1 on ice by converting on another power play for the final goal with 2:04 to go.

    Liberty outshot Mary, 22-21, and Cyhaniuk made 19 saves, one more than Hayden, also an All-American goalie last season.

    The Flames’ fortunes changed in the third game as the Maruaders netted four goals in the second period and tacked on two more in the third, when sophomore forward Roman Lamoureux contributed Liberty’s only score off assists from George and Granzow.

    Mary outshot the Flames, 36-26, and Cyhaniuk made 30 saves in the series-ending setback.

    This coming weekend, Liberty travels to Stevenson (Md.) University for games on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. before returning to the LIC for a three-game showcase from Oct. 29-31 against Florida Gulf Coast University on Friday at 7:30 p.m., UMass-Amherst on Saturday at 6:30 p.m., and Trine University on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.


    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Videos by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media