DIII men’s hockey salvages semester-ending splits with Coastal, Charleston
Liberty University’s ACHA Division III men’s hockey team continued its fall semester trend of splitting series by taking one of two games at Coastal Carolina Nov. 19-20 and staying above the .500 mark by salvaging a split with College of Charleston this past Friday and Saturday at the LaHaye Ice Center.
Against the Cougars (2-5-2), the Flames (7-6-1) outshot their guests, 50-21 in Friday’s opener, but lost 4-3.
“We put a lot of pressure on their goalie, but couldn’t finish,” Liberty Head Coach Josh Graham said. “We did not play to our expectations and Charleston took advantage of a couple key mistakes that we made.”
Liberty held a 49-26 shot advantage in Saturday’s rematch, when the defense stepped up and responded in a 2-1 triumph.
Freshman forward Luke Bessire, posting up in front of the net, tipped a shot by junior center Christian Kline just over the glove of the Charleston goalie for the game-winner with 1:46 remaining in regulation.
“We played very well defensively today,” Graham said. “The first two periods, we only gave up 10 shots total. The third period, they had 16 because we took quite a few penalties.”
The Cougars tied it at 1-1 with 13:29 left in the third by capitalizing on the first power play almost exactly 20 minutes after sophomore forward Mike Williams assisted Kline’s score from the right post with a feed out of the right corner with 13:22 left in the second period, seconds after a power play expired.
Sophomore goalie Kyle Wesbury earned the win in net, making 25 saves.
“Kyle played really well today, making big saves on some of their odd-man rushes,” Graham said. “If he didn’t make those saves, the game would have gone differently today, so that was very encouraging and a super effort from our defensive corps. They played really physical hockey, with good body checks, and were communicating well, so it was fun to watch them play.”
In Friday’s opener, Liberty trailed 1-0 after the first period and 3-2 after the second, when the Flames got goals from freshman wing Carson Desmarais, set up by Williams and Bessire, and junior center Johnny Kettelle, who finished an assist from graduate forward Jerrell Campbell. Charleston expanded its lead to 4-2 with 15:52 left in the third and the Flames responded 32 seconds later on Kettelle’s second goal, assisted by junior center and head captain Jaime Ross and junior wing Kenny Fogarty.
Liberty won its opener at Coastal Carolina, 5-3, before falling behind in Game 2 by a 2-0 count going into the second period, when both teams scored four times before being shut out in the third period for a 6-4 win by the Chanticleers.
“We started trading goals though the whole second period and didn’t do as well as we would have liked defensively,” Graham said, noting that the Flames finished 4-3 against Coastal in 2020-21, capped by an overtime loss in the ACCHL final. “Last season, we were successful in locking down their top scorers.”
This was the teams’ only regular-season contests, though they could meet again at the ACCHL tournament, which Liberty will host from Feb. 25-27. They hope to use the home ice to their advantage, needing to advance to the semifinals to receive an automatic bid to the College Hockey Federation National Championships in West Chester, Pa.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Videos by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media