Flames showcase heavy artillery on Military Appreciation Night, blasting Blue Hens, 10-0
Liberty University’s No. 4-ranked ACHA Division I men’s hockey team brought out its big guns and Army green uniforms on Military Appreciation Night and demonstrated its offensive firepower in a 10-0 triumph over No. 25 University of Delaware, Saturday night at the LaHaye Ice Center.
The Flames (10-4) scored five of their 10 goals on the power play and their penalty kill finished 4-for-4.
“That’s gigantic for us,” Flames Head Coach Kirk Handy said of winning the special teams battle against the Blue Hens (8-7). “The penalty kill was unbelievable. (Assistant) Coach (Jonathan) Chung does a great job with that. Assistant Coach Dan Berthiaume made some adjustments on the power play and to score five is huge.”
Seconds after killing a penalty with 10:45 to play in the first period, Liberty capitalized on a counterattack for the game’s first goal when senior forward Jackson Vercellono skated around a Delaware defenseman onto a loose puck before maneuvering through the right circle toward the post. He drew Blue Hens goalie Jacob Snellenburg out of position before sliding a pass across the crease to sophomore forward Truett Olson for an easy, open-net finish.
Less than two minutes later, junior forward Jacob Kalandyk received a pass out of the left corner from Vercellono and unleashed a long-range missile of a wrist shot that blasted past Snellenburg top shelf for a 2-0 advantage at the 8:48 mark.
Flames senior goalie Cédric Le Sieur snapped high glove saves of dangerous shots by the Blue Hens on their power play and as the teams skated 4-on-4 late in the period.
For the game, Liberty outshot Delaware by a 58-27 count and Le Sieur made 27 saves to record his first shutout of the season in his second consecutive start.
“Coach Dan (Berthiaume) made a great call to have Cédric play both games this weekend and he responded well,” Handy said. “He battles every night he’s in there. Cédric made some huge saves for us. Those are momentum builders, for sure.”
The Flames brought sophomore Rece Poulin and freshman Nathan Mulder up from the DII team and they provided much needed reinforcements to an injury-depleted defensive corps.
“Poulin and Moulder, both of them filled in really well,” Handy said. “Poulin’s played a couple of real solid games for us. He made strong plays all night and he moved the puck well. That’s all you want out of a defenseman is for them to get the puck and move the puck and he did that well.”
The Flames erupted for four goals in the second period, the first and last by junior forward Jason Foltz off assists from senior forward Josh Fricks, who also assisted the third.
First, just 30 seconds into a Liberty power play, Fricks took a pass from senior forward Matt Bartel in the high slot before skating to the top of the right circle and finding Foltz with a feed across the slot for a one-time finish in the left crease and a 3-0 Flames lead with 17:34 left in the period.
Senior defenseman Colin Baird assisted the second by taking a pass out of the left corner from junior forward Kris Bladen and launching a rocket of a shot from on the left side of the blue line that junior forward Nate Albers deflected past Snellenburg for a 4-0 advantage at the 10:40 mark.
“It was awesome to see (Albers) score his first goal ever at Liberty,” Handy said. “That guy embodies who we want to be on and off the ice. He’s a warrior for us and he’s a leader for us and he brings the energy every night he’s out there. He understands his role and embraces it.”
With Liberty back on the man advantage, Fricks skated the puck around the perimeter before dishing a saucer pass across to Bartel for another one-timer from the top of the right circle, stretching the lead to 5-0 with 2:29 left. Finally, the Fricks-to-Foltz connection burned the Blue Hens again, this time on a fast break when Fricks skated the puck along the right boards and dropped a pass back to Foltz at the top of the right circle, where he skated it into the right circle and picked his spot with a wrist shot into the top left corner of the cage, stretching the lead to 6-0 with 1:06 to go.
Back-to-back goals by freshman defenseman Laz Kaebel sparked the Flames’ attack in the third, when they added four more scores against Delaware replacement goalie Jay Luce to reach double figures for the second time, with the first against Delaware in the second game of the season.
Kaebel received a cross-ice pass from senior defenseman Tom Nagle and worked around a Delaware player using a toe drag before unloading a wrist shot from the top of the right circle, stretching the edge to 7-0 with 16:13 remaining. Just 32 seconds later, Fricks settled a pass from Bartel in the high slot and distributed the puck down to a waiting Kaebel in the left circle for a slap shot inside the near post.
“That guy can shoot the puck and he scored a couple of beauties there,” Handy said.
With 4:08 left and the Flames on a man advantage after a five-minute major against a Blue Hen, Baird uncorked a shot from the right point that junior forward DJ Schwenke tipped up and in, extending the advantage to 9-0. Kalandyk finally finished the scoring by receiving a return pass from Vercellono in the center of the left circle and pinpointing his wrist shot into the top-right corner.
“We changed up the look of the power play, and I liked the way it looked,” Handy said. “With the adjustment of Josh (Fricks) and Laz (Kaebel) where they were playing obviously was a key move for us. Fricks distributes the puck very well and Foltz and Kalyndyk, Vercellono, Schwenke scored on the power play, too.”
The Flames fly to Las Vegas on Tuesday before challenging NCAA Division I Alaska Anchorage on Thursday and UNLV, the No. 1 team in ACHA DI, on Friday and Saturday at its home rink.
“This win gives us a lot of momentum, though we’ll have a real short week coming up,” Handy said. “We’ll take a couple days to heal up and then we’ll get going again.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media