Flames bullied by Bulldogs at even strength, settle for series split at Adrian
Allowing a goal just 33 seconds after the opening faceoff set the tone for Liberty University’s ACHA Division I men’s hockey team’s rematch at Adrian (Mich.) College, a 6-2 setback Saturday afternoon at the Arrington Ice Center.
“We came out flat today and they came out and scored on the first shift of the game. That kind of put us back on our heels right away,” Flames Head Coach Kirk Handy said, noting that Liberty (5-3) won the special teams battle with the Bulldogs (7-1). “Our power play was 2-for-5, so it did the job today, and our PK was awesome again, going 4-for-4, killing three power plays plus a penalty shot.”
“So, we did pretty well on special teams,” he added, noting that five-on-five was a different story, with Adrian scoring two goals at even strength in all three periods. “They scored six goals and we had zero. That was the equation here tonight. We just got a slow start (and) gave them too many chances. We need to be better in our defensive zone, which is something we will continue to work on.”
Bulldogs senior forward Sam Spaedt started the scoring, finishing assists from linemates Dylan Gajewski and Sebastian Smith for a quick 1-0 lead.
Jason Foltz, who scored the Flames’ game-winning goal in Friday night’s 3-2 shootout victory, netted the equalizer with 6:43 to go on a power play, finishing feeds from senior linemate Josh Fricks and fellow junior forward DJ Schwenke.
But less than three and a half minutes later, Gajewski converted the game-winner, capitalizing on assists from Smith and Spaedt for the first of his three consecutive goals to give Adrian a 2-1 advantage going into the first intermission.
Gajewski scored again at the 10:50 mark of the second period, putting away assists from Spaedt and defenseman Dakota Bohn, before completing his natural hat trick just over two minutes later with his 11th goal of the season, assisted by defenseman Matthew Cruz.
Then in the third, the Bulldogs stretched their lead to 5-1 on a goal by graduate forward Tyler Fyfe, who finished feeds from linemates Henrik Overvall and Ethan Klemen with 17:54 remaining in regulation.
Junior forward and leading scorer Jacob Kalandyk pulled the Flames back within 5-2 with 14:27 remaining in regulation on a power-play goal assisted by sophomore defenseman Colten Kovich. However, they would get no closer as Adrian reopened its four-goal advantage on a Nash Hatcher goal assisted by linemates Justin Jamer and Brenden Stanko.
The Flames were only outshot by the Bulldogs, 44-36, and senior goalie Hunter Virostek made 38 saves in the loss.
“Hunter had a good weekend,” Handy said. “There were one or two he wishes that he could have back, but overall, he’s been very solid for us.”
Liberty was shorthanded for the second game in a row, missing senior forward Brett Gammer, who was attending a funeral for his uncle, and junior forward Kam Ottenbreit, who played Friday but left after that game to attend a funeral for his cousin, as well as freshman defenseman Grant Morton, who was sidelined by injury.
But Handy said the Flames need to continue to overcome adversity if they are going to be a championship contender in March.
“The game today leaves us with a lot of work still to do to be a top program in the ACHA,” he said. “I believe in our group and our team. It’s the middle of October and want to continue getting better every week and refining who we are as a team. Especially in our D zone, we need to be a lot better moving forward, cleaning that up and making sure we correct our mistakes and continue to get better each time out.”
Liberty will be off next weekend before returning to the LaHaye Ice Center to host Robert Morris University on Oct. 28-29 at 7 p.m.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer