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    January 29, 2022 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Considering their last name, it may be surprising how well sisters Brityn and Brielle Fussy get along as sophomore and freshman forwards on Liberty University’s ACHA Division I women’s hockey team.

    “We’re not the type of sisters that fight all the time,” Brityn said.

    “It would make life pretty miserable I think at this point if we didn’t get along, so I think it’s our only choice,” added Brielle, a biomedical sciences major studying to become a physician’s assistant.

    Brityn Fussy skates in a game against the Washington Pride on Sept. 25 at the LaHaye Ice Center. (Photo by Joel Coleman)

    After playing on the same teams throughout their high school careers in Minnesota, and even on the same line at times this season, the sisters plan to share off-campus housing with teammates next year. Their friendly disposition is characteristic of the rest of the Lady Flames as well.

    “We all get along,” said Brityn, a healthcare management major who plans to follow in the career path of her mom. “It’s the first time I’ve been on a team where we haven’t had any conflict or drama. I think that’s how our team is so successful at this point; everybody does treat each other with that respect. We’re all super close and they all feel like family. It’s definitely special, especially the faith aspect. That’s something Brielle and I both absolutely love here, that that’s the main goal for the team — to serve God and just play for Him.”

    As far as life at Liberty goes, the Fussy sisters have no complaints so far.

    “I wouldn’t change a thing, honestly,” Brityn said. “When I came here as a freshman, or even looking at the campus as a recruit, I couldn’t find one thing wrong. It’s amazing we found a place that just pursues God in everything we do, school and hockey-wise.”

    “I can say for both of us that we’re really blessed to be here and by just how much we’ve grown since we’ve been here,” Brielle added. “The environment is amazing. How many opportunities we get to serve God and get to know Him better is incredible.”

    Both Fussy sisters show sportsmanship and discipline on the ice, as they have each only been whistled for one two-minute penalty through 18 games this season — all wins as the No. 1-ranked, three-time defending ACHA DI national champion Lady Flames are riding a program-record 33-game streak.

    “In everything you do, you’re made to glorify God and His name,” Brielle said. “Especially being on a team from Liberty, people know that’s our ultimate goal. We’re honestly training to be Champions for Christ, so winning as many games and doing it in a fashion where we are still a respected team in the league, I think that’s all I can ask for playing here.”

    “The Fussy sisters epitomize what we look for in student-athletes at Liberty,” added fifth-year Head Coach Chris Lowes. “They come from a sports family and they represent our team and school well both on and off the ice and raise the caliber of play on our team — not just as athletes but in character as well. They’re both well-grounded young women, and that carries over into their hockey. They play with confidence and a swagger that comes from their faith and the people that they are.”

    Nicknamed “Big Fuss” and “Little Fuss” by their teammates growing up, the Fussy sisters have made some noise — and significant impacts — on the ice.

    They are currently tied for sixth on the Lady Flames in scoring: Brielle has netted 8 goals and distributed 8 assists; Brityn has 7 goals (including a team-high 4 game-winners) and 9 assists.

    Brityn Fussy (33) is greeted by teammates, including her sister, Brielle (25) on the bench, after a goal by Carly Glover (27). (Photo by Joel Coleman)

    Last season, as a freshman, Brityn led the Lady Flames and ranked 13th in ACHA Division I with 16 goals (including 5 game-winners) and 9 assists in 15 games.

    “Brit killed it for us last year,” Lowes said. “She was such a big part of our nationals run and has established herself as a top player in this league, and Bri’s doing the same thing through her first semester this season. Both are on the front ends of their careers and are going to be cornerstones for our team for a long time.”

    The Fussy sisters don’t often play on the same forward line, but when they do, they make the most of the time — as they did on the first shift in overtime of a 4-3 come-from-behind victory at Adrian College, with Brielle assisting Brityn on a back-door, fast-break finish.

    “That’s something that’s already a big memory,” Brielle said of setting up her sister for the game-winning score. ”That’s my favorite that I’ve had in hockey so far.”

    “We’ve never really been on the same line together, surprisingly as sisters, but every time we’ve been on a line here, it’s been super fun,” added Brityn, who normally plays on the same lines as graduate forwards Vanessa DeMerchant and Shelby Bradford or senior forward Yannick Truter.

    “It’s really easy to get good combinations when all the girls have such different and unique styles of play, so it makes it fun,” Brielle added, noting that all eight freshmen and sophomore forward Carly Glover each bring tremendous skillsets to the team.

    She said Brityn has helped smooth her transition to the collegiate game.

    “It’s way easier when you’re playing with someone that you’ve been playing with your whole life, because you basically know almost everything that they’re going to do, and it makes the game really easy,” Brielle said. “It slows the game down.”

    Brielle Fussy looks up ice as she skates the puck past an Indiana Tech player on Oct. 23 at the LIC. (Photo by KJ Jugar)

    Both have the ability to accelerate past opposing defensemen with their speed and skating skills.

    “They are similar in that they both possess speed, though they are dramatically different skaters,” Lowes said. “A lot of sisters look alike on the ice, but Brit and Bri don’t. They’re almost polar opposites. Both are great athletes, incredible skaters, and have flourished and developed confidence in this league. They have the ability to be game-changers.”

    He says they have already demonstrated leadership potential.

    “They certainly don’t look like first- and second-year players,” Lowes said. “In our locker room, their teammates trust them and know what they’re going to get out of them.”

    Liberty, which is spending this weekend in quarantine with a few positive COVID-19 cases within the team, plans to return to action next weekend for three games against Top-10 teams — at McKendree on Friday at 2:30 p.m. in Lebanon, Ill., at No. 4 Lindenwood (Mo.) in a 2021 championship rematch on Saturday at 8 p.m., and at Maryville University in St. Louis on Sunday at 2 p.m. It will be the first of three trips to St. Louis in a span of six weeks for Liberty before it seeks to three-peat as Women’s Midwest College Hockey (WMCH) tournament champions on Feb. 25-27 and break a tie with Lindenwood with a record fourth consecutive crown at the March 16-20 ACHA DI National Championships in the Centene Community Ice Arena, practice facility for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues.

    “Our skill this year, I think, is even better than last year with the incoming freshmen, so I feel like we have a fairly good chance of winning this year and repeating what we did last year,” Brityn said.

    “As a freshman, it will be a nice to see this new atmosphere of really turning into that championship winning team and learning and seeing that through the older girls on our team who’ve been there and have done it before multiple times,” Brielle added. “To really just take wisdom and knowledge from them will help us a lot.”

    The Lady Flames will honor their five graduates and three seniors when they play their last home series of the season on Feb. 18-19 against Adrian at the LaHaye Ice Center.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer

    Sophomore Brityn Fussy (left) and younger sister Brielle Fussy make a dynamic duo as forwards for the Lady Flames. (Photos by Joel Coleman and Chase Gyles)