DIII Flames off to hot start
The Liberty Flames Men’s Division III hockey team ended the month of September with two convincing victories, defeating Virginia Military Institute and Virginia Commonwealth by scores of 15-1 and 13-4, respectively, at home Sept. 28 and 29.
The Flames got the action going early on Friday as junior Brandon Cockburn took a pass from rookie Ryan Francis and slapped it past Keydet goaltender Gianluca Mangiapane and put the Flames up 1-0 two minutes into the game.
Cockburn then paid it forward and assisted Austin Crossley to his first goal of the season midway through the period.
Chad Docksteader then opened the floodgates, beating Mangiapane on a breakaway to put Liberty up 3-0. Josh Klakring got his first of the night just 36 seconds later and Crossley added his second a minute after that to send Liberty into the break up 5-0.
Liberty continued to pour on the offense in the second period as Crossley completed a hat trick midway through the period. Cockburn then picked up his second goal of the night off an assist from Crossley. Klakring scored with three and a half minutes to go to put the Flames up 8-0. Alex Erber finally broke through for the Keydets to cut the margin to 8-1.
Klakring opened the third period scoring off a feed from Docksteader to make the score 9-1 and complete a hat trick. Kevin Serapiglia added his first goal of the night, and Crossley added two more goals to make the score 12-1. Cockburn’s third goal was sandwiched by goals from Marcus Blondon and Mark Lariviere to close out the dominating performance.
Cary Byron played all 60 minutes for Liberty, earning the win, allowing the one goal on 5 shots.
The Flames came out guns blazing again on Saturday night against the Rams of VCU as Crossley lit the lamp for his sixth goal of the weekend just 42 seconds into the game to put Liberty up 1-0.
The Rams responded with a goal by Michael Hirsch to tie the score at 1, but Crossley added a second goal to put the Flames back in front.
Austin Wagner scored his first goal of the season to push the Flames lead to 3-1. Three minutes later, Crossley completed his second hat trick in as many nights to up Liberty’s lead to 4-1. Michael Schrader scored to cut the deficit to 4-2, but Crossley responded just nine seconds later to restore Liberty’s three goal lead going into the first intermission.
Forrest Ford scored for VCU on an unassisted breakaway, cutting the deficit down to two and Schrader put in his second goal of the night to draw the Rams within one at 5-4, but that would be as close as VCU would get. Serapiglia scored his second goal of the weekend to give Liberty a two-goal cushion. The Flames built the spread from there, scoring the last eight goals of the game, including two more from Crossley, giving him a “double hat trick” and sending the Flames to the victory.
Liberty opened the season with a pair of games on the road, facing another in state rival, Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., Sept. 14-15.
Klakring finished the first game with two goals to help Liberty rally back from down 4-2 and Cockburn scored the game-winner with 1:49 to go in overtime to give Liberty the victory 5-4.
The second game was a physical affair, the two teams whistled for a combined 22 penalties before the night was over. Kenny Zamborsky beat Byron in overtime to give the Captains a 4-3- victory.
The Flames get a week off before beginning a three game road trip against Loyola University (Md.) on Oct. 12, Salisbury University on Oct. 13, and a unique “road” game against VMI at the LaHaye Ice Center on Oct. 20 (VMI uses Liberty’s rink as their home ice). Liberty (3-1) faces Loyola at 10:45 p.m. in the Mount Pleasant Ice Arena.