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    January 29, 2023 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Liberty University’s No. 1-ranked ACHA DI women’s hockey team, which had its 57-game winning streak snapped last Friday at McKendree, suffered its second loss in five games in Saturday’s three-game series finale against No. 3 Minot State at the LaHaye Ice Center.

    The Lady Flames (20-1-1) rallied to tie the game at 1, 2, and 3 in the first two periods, but couldn’t net the equalizer on three power-play opportunities in the third period and fell, 4-3, the same score as their loss to the Bearcats.

    “They did a good job keeping us on our heels and we couldn’t catch them,” Liberty Assistant Coach Justin Forth said. “They did a good job making the simple plays and getting pucks deep, and they did bring energy consistently throughout the 60 minutes tonight. They looked fast and their transition game was good at times and caught us flat-footed. There’s a lot of good video we can watch from this weekend, especially in the D zone.”

    Minot State (14-7-2) seized a 1-0 lead with 8:08 left in the first period on a shot by defenseman Anna German before Liberty junior forward Carly Glover tied it at 1 just over a minute later. Glover, who scored a goal and distributed two assists in Thursday’s 4-1 opening victory, scored on a beautiful backhanded putback of sophomore defenseman Madison Glynn’s shot from the top of the left circle as she skated through the left crease.

    The Beavers reclaimed their one-goal lead later in the period when Ensley Fendelet finished a feed from German, and they held a 2-1 edge and a 10-9 shot advantage going into the second period.

    Liberty capitalized on a power-play goal to tie it at 2 at the 14:17 mark of the second when sophomore forward Brielle Fussy skated the puck around the right circle and cut toward the net before feeding a pass across the slot to sophomore defenseman Peyton Carle for a well-timed finish in the left crease.

    Forward Sydney Spicer set up Gillian Gervin’s goal that lifted Minot to a 3-2 advantage. But the Beavers were whistled for three penalties in a span of a few minutes, and with one second remaining on the last of those three power-play chances, senior forward and alternate captain Yannick Truter dug in a second-chance backhanded putback under a scrum in front of the net, following junior forward and alternate captain Brityn Fussy’s initial shot from the high slot set up by Glover.

    With 14:14 remaining in regulation, Minot State reclaimed the lead for the last time on Spicer’s game-winner from the high slot deflected through traffic just under the crossbar, beating Lady Flames freshman goalie Alex Keith.

    Senior forward Linzy Jedrzejek skates along the Lady Flames’ bench.

    The Lady Flames went back on the power play with 6:30 to play on a third consecutive penalty in the third period by Beavers leading scorer Jordan Kulbida, who checked Glynn into the side boards. But Liberty couldn’t capitalize and picked up a penalty of its own when junior forward Rianna Spanier was called for boarding in the Liberty corner.

    “Honestly, our execution on our power play wasn’t good enough,” Forth said. “They’re the best penalty kill we’ve played against. They play similar to us — they jump quick and push the offense. Our power play didn’t play well against that system. They won a lot more 50-50 battles than we did and they got a lot more red lines and they just made the simple plays look easier than we did. We were fighting pucks and trying to do too much at times and they capitalized. We had no puck support. Everybody was kind of maybe trying to do their own thing, not what they’ve practiced.”

    With Minot on the man advantage, Kulbida was sent back to the box for roughing after tangling up Glover and pulling her to the ice after she was cited for interfering with Beavers goalie Haylie Biever.

    “She’s a gritty player, a good, skilled player,” Forth said of Kulbida. “If she focused on her offensive game, she would do more damage. That’s great that she wants to wrestle with our girls, but not overly effective. If she had put her head down and shot the puck more, she’d have been more effective than being in the box the whole weekend.”

    Liberty Head Coach Chris Lowes said the Lady Flames failed to finish any of their power play chances in the third period due in part to playing a third game in three days for a second weekend in a row, which is something they will have to do to defend their WMCH and ACHA tournament crowns.

    “Our energy wasn’t there in the third,” he said. “The key to the power play is you’ve got to go get full possession and get set up, and we couldn’t even do that. Give them credit, they were pressuring us. We just had a hard time stringing together multiple shifts. We turned the puck over, just uncharacteristic mistakes from our (defensemen), who moved the puck so well in Games 1 and 2, and we didn’t find easy passes. We had a lot of missed assignments defensively (and) our PK was not very good today. I know Alex (Keith) wants a couple of those back, but we’ve got to do better to support her. We just never got positive momentum. We were behind, and it felt like we were fighting to come back the whole time.”

    The Lady Flames will have two weeks off before hosting No. 2-ranked Adrian College in their regular-season-ending series on Feb. 17-18.

    “Adrian’s No. 2, these guys were No. 3,” Forth said. “This season, above any other season that we’ve seen, the top three is the tightest it’s been. Adrian’s just as dangerous. The league knows that we’ve got a chink in our armor right now. We’re down … so teams are licking their chops. I know Adrian’s excited to come in here and take a bite off of us. We’ll be able to hopefully recover these next couple of weekends and be ready to go.”

    Lowes is confident the Lady Flames will learn from this loss and be better prepared to face the Bulldogs, the team they defeated in the 2018 ACHA DI National Championship final.

    “It’s why we play the best teams,” he said. “This is playoff prep. We want to be in these games, and we want to expose areas in our game where there’s room for improvement and I think we’ll do that. The video will be pretty truth-telling.”

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