Lady Flames complete sweep by surging past first-year Warriors in final three minutes
A day after shutting out Indiana Tech in the teams’ first-ever meeting, Liberty University’s ACHA Division I women’s hockey team rallied from an 1-0 first-period deficit in Saturday’s rematch at the LaHaye Ice Center, scoring twice in the final three minutes of the third for a 3-1 triumph and series sweep.
“It was one of those hockey games that can go either way,” Lady Flames Assistant Coach Justin Forth said. “Today, we kind of found out what the girls have, what kind of stuff they’re made of. They showed that they’re made of compete and they were able to pull another win out to keep it rolling.”
“Like (Head) Coach (Chris) Lowes says, we don’t face adversity all the time, but when we do, it’s nice to see that we can pull through as a team to win,” added graduate forward Shannon Fehr, who netted the game-winner in the final 2:38 of regulation. “Indiana (Tech) came out hard today and we had to fight to earn the win. They’ve been playing really well and it was good to see that we can outwork them and should be the No. 1 team, hopefully.”
The first ACHA DI national rankings will come out in early November, when the three-time defending national champion Lady Flames (7-0), who are riding a 16-game winning streak, are expected to debut at No. 1, where they spent the final month and a half of last season.
Indiana Tech (5-3-1), a first-year ACHA Division I program led by former Miami (Ohio) Head Coach Scott Hicks, bounced back from a 5-0 setback to give Liberty all it could handle for 60 minutes in Game 2.
The Warriors capitalized on a three-on-one break with 5:57 left in the first period when defenseman Sterling Nesbitt pocketed the putback of forward Arika Trentor’s shot past Lady Flames sophomore goalie Amanda Storey.
“They were able to capitalize on really our one mistake that we made,” Forth said. “That’s hockey and that’s why we are all a part of it, because it’s exciting and you don’t know what wave is going to come next, whether it’s in your favor or their favor. Our girls plugged away and did a good job and battled and didn’t get down or too frustrated. We just stuck to our guns and thankfully, we were rewarded.”
Liberty started the second period on the power play and netted the equalizer just 1:14 after the opening faceoff when sophomore forward Brityn Fussy skated the puck in unchecked from the right boards and lifted a wrist shot from the center of the right circle past Warriors goalie Mackenzie Addley inside the right post.
“Our power play has been struggling a little bit, but Brit stepped up and was able to get us back in it and get that momentum going into the third (period),” Forth said. “All of our lines were buzzing, kind of the whole game.”
Then in the third, the Lady Flames netted the go-ahead and insurance goals down the stretch. Graduate defenseman Dana McLeod cleared the puck from deep in her own zone with an outlet pass to graduate forward Shelby Bradford, cutting across the Lady Flames’ blue line. She skated the puck up the left wing under close defensive coverage and sent a crossing pass for junior forward Yannick Truter, which was poke-checked by an Indiana Tech defenseman directly to Fehr. She skated into the inside edge of the right circle and fired a shot over the shoulder of Addley into the top-left corner of the cage.
“That’s one of the spots I try to go to and it doesn’t always go there, so it was good to see that it did,” Fehr said. “Shelby set it up for me. She had a really good game. There’s really good chemistry with our line and it was good to see us finally finish, and at a point when our team really needed it.“
“Shannon (Fehr’s) a big part of our team and she’s one of the leaders, so it was good for her to be able to step up and find a way to get us that game-winning goal,” Forth added.
Indiana Tech pulled Addley for the final 1:21 and the Lady Flames iced the victory when freshman forward Zosia Adamek took the puck from behind her own goal and weaved through a few Warriors before launching a shot from the red line into the center of the open goal.
Liberty outshot Indiana Tech, 32-16, and Storey made 15 saves to improve to 4-0 with a 0.75 goals-against average. Addley, a freshman, turned 18 on Saturday and made her Warriors debut on her first day of ACHA eligibility.
The Lady Flames will be off next weekend before making its final road trip of the fall semester, traveling to play two games at Miami (Ohio) University on Nov. 5-6 and one at Adrian (Mich.) College on Nov. 7 in rematches of their first two of four ACHA DI national championship finals in 2015 and 2018, respectively.
“We’ve been home-heavy this year, which has been nice,” Forth said. “So it will be good for us to get back on the road and build our team camaraderie. Road trips are fun. The girls like it and it’s a business trip in the end. We’ve just got to go up there and come away with three wins. That’s the goal.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media