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    October 29, 2022 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Four goals by Liberty University’s ACHA Division I men’s hockey team’s top line — from midway through the second period to midway through the third — helped turn a 2-1 contest in the rematch with Robert Morris (Pa.) University into a 9-2 triumph on Saturday night at the LaHaye Ice Center.

    After mixing up the Flames’ four lines to start Friday’s opener, a 4-1 setback to the unranked Colonials, Head Coach Kirk Handy returned to the combinations that had been together since the start of the season and they connected repeatedly. The top trio of junior forward Jason Foltz (two goals, two assists), alternate captain Matt Bartel (1G, 1A), and fellow senior forward Josh Fricks (1G, 1A) sparked the attack for the Flames (6-4), who outshot the Colonials (7-3-1) by a 71-25 count.

    “Tonight, we had even more shots and our power play was working, we were moving our feet and laying our hits, doing what we do well,” said Foltz, who played on the line with fellow junior forwards Jacob Kalandyk and Kam Ottenbreit to start Friday’s game. “The boys were moving the puck well tonight and played good in the D zone, did good on the penalty kill.”

    Coming off its second straight defeat, Liberty struck quickly against RMU, with Kalandyk taking an outlet pass from sophomore defenseman Luke Heimann along the right boards and sniping a wrist shot from just inside the right circle for a 1-0 lead at the 16:52 mark.

    With the Colonials on the power play, they tied the contest with a quick counterattack goal by forward Roman Kraemer with 11:54 left in the first period.

    The Flames reclaimed the lead with 7:53 to go in the period when Truett Olson finished fast-break feeds from sophomore forward Jackson Vercellono and freshman defenseman Laz Kaebel with a shot in the right circle that trickled through the pads of RMU goalie Kevin Mackey and barely crossed the goal line beside the left post.

    Mackey stuffed a point-blank shot through the slot and rebound by Vercellono off a backhanded feed from Kalandyk with Liberty on a power play and used his blocker to repel a few more shots from the point and high slot as the Colonials killed back-to-back penalties late in the period.

    But with the teams at even strength, Fricks set up the Flames’ third goal with a long give-and-go outlet pass from the right corner in the defensive end up to Foltz along the boards beside the left circle. Foltz sent a saucer pass across the slot back to Fricks, who skated into the right circle and lifted a wrist shot that flipped up over Mackey’s glove and bounced inside the right post for a 3-1 advantage with 12:36 to play in the second period.

    Senior forward Brett Gammer controls the puck in front of Josh Fricks.

    Just 1:20 later, still playing 5-on-5, the Flames shredded RMU’s defense with Kalandyk facilitating a spectacular series of passes. He first worked a give-and-go with Vercellono in the high slot — dishing him a backhand out of the left crease and receiving a return pass behind the Colonials’ cage — before bouncing a pass off the boards out of the right corner to Kaebel at the blue line and receiving a return pass at the top of the right circle. Kalandyk skated to the high slot and dished a pass to senior defenseman and head captain Colin Baird, who took it from there, lifting a wrist shot into the top left corner to extend Liberty’s lead to 4-1.

    “It was good to see Colin get one,” Foltz said. “That was (his) first of the year. He’s one of those guys that really sets the bar for our team, so when he’s out there playing good, the rest of the guys are going to follow that.”

    The Flames put more tic-tac-toe passing on display as they capitalized on a power play to pad their lead to 5-1 with Kaebel lifting a backhanded pass across the slot to Foltz who sent it back to Bartel near the blue line. Bartel dealt the puck to Fricks atop the left circle before he skated it toward the corner and handed it off to Foltz, who found Bartel wide open for a one-timer from the high slot into the upper netting.

    “Glad to see Barty bury that one after I gave him a few good passes this weekend,” Foltz said. “We were telling him, ‘glove-side, glove-side,’ and he shot it glove-side and it went in the net, so I was glad to get Barty going, to get Josh (Fricks) going. This was a really good weekend for our line. We struggled a little bit early in the season, so I think we’re going to be good for the rest of the year.”

    In the closing minute of the second period, Liberty senior goalie Cédric Le Sieur saved a breakaway opportunity and point-blank putback by Justin Adamski, who netted the Colonials’ first two goals in Friday’s opener.

    Then, moments after killing a 5-on-3 opportunity for RMU, the Flames converted a power-play chance to stretch their edge to 6-1 when Foltz gathered the rebound of a shot from Fricks and put it away in the right circle with 13:26 to play.

    Sophomore forward Truett Olson, who scored the Flames’ second goal, battles an RMU player along the boards.

    Kraemer trimmed the deficit to 6-2 with 11:18 remaining by sneaking a wrist shot from the left circle past Le Sieur. But the Flames responded on an ensuing power play just over a minute later. Seconds after a shot by Fricks glanced off Mackey’s blocker and the left post, Foltz received a pass from Kaebel and launched shot from the left circle that slipped through the five-hole of Mackey with 10:12 to go, with junior forward DJ Schwenke right there to assure it crossed the goal line.

    Then, with 9:06 to play, Ottenbreit swiped a loose puck away from Mackey on the rebound of senior forward Brett Gammer’s shot from the left circle and tucked the puck around the goalie from the right side for a commanding 8-2 advantage. Finally, at the 5:05 mark, Vercellono finished unassisted with a fantastic drive from the red line, skating around defenders before cutting back across the crease and lifting a forehand into the upper netting from near the doorstep.

    Le Sieur made 23 saves in posting his second win in as many starts for the Flames.

    “I’m happy to see him get in the net,” Foltz said. “He had some huge saves tonight and only let up two goals, so he did a really good job.”

    Liberty will return to action next weekend for a series against No. 6 Stony Brook (6-0), with its former ESCHL rival returning to the LIC for games Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.

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