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    September 24, 2022 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Building on its dynasty with a solid foundation of veterans and a sensational class of sophomores, Liberty University’s four-time defending ACHA Division I National Championship women’s hockey team opened its 2022-23 season by extending its winning streak to 41 games with a 10-2 humbling of the Washington Pride U19 team, Saturday afternoon at the LaHaye Ice Center.

    After a slow start, with graduate forward and head captain Shelby Bradford providing the only first-period score off assists from freshmen defenseman Emerson Oakes and forward Brookelyn Beauchamp at the 5:28 mark, the Lady Flames (1-0) erupted for five goals in the second period and added four more in the third to separate themselves from the Pride.

    Sixth-year Head Coach Chris Lowes

    “This is the first time for this team to compete, so the girls were itching to do that,” Liberty Head Coach Chris Lowes said. “It’s really important for the freshmen to get their first touches and get a sense of what our team is like in games and (Oakes and Beauchamp) both did a lot of things well. We had a bunch of lines that did some good things, so that was encouraging. We had some good moments. We looked fast at times and did some things we wanted to do.”

    “It was really good,” added sophomore forward Zosia Adamek, who netted her first career hat trick. “The first period was a little flat, but (Coach) Lowes came into the dressing room and fired us up and we all came together and said, ‘This is it,’ and went out and played well. The second period we came out really strong and clicked as a team, so it was really exciting.”

    She, too, was impressed by the freshmen making their collegiate debuts.

    Sophomore forward Zosia Adamek leads the scoring line after one of her three goals against Washington.

    “Brookelyn (Beauchamp) was on my line and for her first game here, she really stuck it out and put her heart on the ice for us and that’s what you need as a rookie coming in,” Adamek said. “Emerson’s on the D corps and in the next few years, she’s really going to shine here. (Freshman goalie) Alex (Keith) didn’t get to play today, but I’m really excited to see her in net.”

    Liberty (1-0) outshot Washington (3-3) by a 41-24 margin for the contest and junior goalie Amanda Storey made 22 saves to earn the win, with plenty of offensive support from the Lady Flames’ forward lines and defensemen.

    “We started a little rocky at the beginning, but after the first period, we all figured out where our places were and after that we just started rolling,” said sophomore defenseman Peyton Carle, who contributed one goal and three assists. “We were getting good flow, good touches, and our chemistry was getting good. Our forwards started using the defense, which allowed us to have some offensive pressure. We were getting shots through, which allowed our defense to get a lot of assists.”

    Just over two minutes into the second period, junior forward Rianna Spanier, Liberty’s most improved player last season, doubled the lead to 2-0. She finished feeds from sophomore forward Haley Battles, last season’s WMCH Tournament MVP, and linemate Danica Polson, who returns for her fourth season with the Lady Flames after taking last year off and starting graduate school this fall.

    Rianna Spanier (21) celebrates her goal with (from left) Sammy Peebles, Danica Polson, Emerson Oakes, and Haley Battles.

    “That’s exciting,” Lowes said of Polson’s return. “She’s a big piece for us. That (sophomore) class is going to have a breakout year. I think you’ll see a lot more minutes and production out of them.”

    The Lady Flames padded their advantage to 5-0 with three goals in a span of less than two minutes midway through the second period, the first off the stick of senior forward and alternate captain Yannick Truter, the reigning ACHA DI Player of the Year, assisted by senior defenseman Priscilla Ziefle with 11:57 to go. Adamek netted her first goal, assisted by Carle, 43 seconds later before Carle finished the scoring flurry assisted by Truter at the 9:58 mark. Adamek struck again with 4:51 left in the period, putting away passes from sophomore defensemen Madison Glynn and Carle.

    Less than a minute into the third, Bradford capitalized on a fast break to score her second goal shorthanded, finishing a short crossing pass from junior forward and alternate captain Brityn Fussy to stretch the lead to 7-0. Two minutes later, sophomore forward Brielle Fussy extended the edge to 8-0 off a second assist from Ziefle before Adamek completed her hat trick off Carle’s third assist.

    The Pride ended Storey’s shutout bid with 13:13 remaining and scored once more at the 5:38 mark before Battles responded off the second assists from Polson and Oakes with 2:44 to play.

    Junior forward Brityn Fussy eyes a shot through traffic in front provided by senior forward and fellow alternate captain Yannick Truter.

    “(Washington) took advantage of a couple mistakes, and made a couple plays, but it was a good opening weekend.” Lowes said, noting the Lady Flames have plenty to work on in practice to prepare to host Hockey Training Institute’s (HTI) U21 team this coming Friday at 2:30 p.m. and Saturday at 11:30 a.m. “HTI gave us fits last year. They gave us one of our toughest games.”

    “I’m really excited for HTI, but every game is going to be hard this year and we’ll have to come out strong no matter who we’re playing,” Adamek added. “We’re in a rhythm now that we’ve started going, and it’s just going to be uphill from here. I like to think that we’re the hardest-working team in the league, whether we’re projected to win or not.”

    “HTI is going to give us a good battle, but we know what to expect now having a game under our belt,” Carle added. “We know what to work on and will have good film to watch to be ready. At practices, we all just push each other to be better. Our biggest competition is ourselves, so as long as we just keep our energy up in practices, we’ll be great against any other team. It’s going to be a great year.”

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

    Sophomore defenseman Peyton Carle launches a shot into a pack of players bunched up around the cage.