Lady Flames complete sweep of Bulldogs by capitalizing on final power play
On its 10th and final power-play opportunity in Saturday afternoon’s regular-season-ending rematch with Adrian College at the LaHaye Ice Center, Liberty University’s No. 1-ranked ACHA Division I women’s hockey team finally converted, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
With 1:44 remaining in regulation, Lady Flames sophomore forward Haley Battles received a pass from sophomore defenseman Madison Glynn and weaved her way through defensemen in the right circle before sniping the game-winning goal into the upper netting, lifting Liberty (22-1-1) to a 2-1 lead en route to a 3-1 triumph over the No. 5 Bulldogs.
“The game-winner was really important,” Lady Flames Head Coach Chris Lowes said. “All day long, their penalty kill was better than our power play and we needed that. Three minutes left, you start thinking overtime, but once we got the power play, I thought, ‘OK, we’ve got a shot here.’”
“The puck movement was really good (on the power play),” said forward Linzy Jedrzejek, one of four Lady Flames who were honored on Senior Day. “We were working it in lower compared to yesterday so we were getting some good looks and the girls executed and that’s what we do. It was really cool to get a nice battle with Adrian because they’re our rivals and they always give us a good run. We knew we needed to come out aggressively and just tie down early and continue pushing on them the whole game.””
After Adrian (21-9) took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a wraparound goal that got past freshman goalie Alex Keith, Jedrzejek netted the equalizer midway through the second period.
“(Sophomore defenseman) Sammy Peebles did an incredible job keeping that puck in on a hard rim (clear from the corner) and made a pass (across the blue line) that was really tight to (graduate defenseman) Aislyn Stretch, who did a job of corralling it and throwing a puck on net that was tipped in by Jedrzejek,” Lowes said.
“I just took away the goalie’s vision and I got a stick on the puck and got it in there,” Jedrzejek added.
Adrian pulled its goalie for the final 90 seconds to gain a 6-on-5 advantage and junior forward Carly Glover iced the victory with an empty-netter from behind the red line.
“It’s bittersweet knowing this was my last home game, but it’s really cool to see the growth that all four seniors had, (and) to see the dynamic on the team change from my freshman year to now,” said Jedrzejek, who had a rare opportunity to play on the Lady Flames’ top forward line with graduate Shelby Bradford and senior Yannick Truter.
“The lines got mixed up quite a bit but I love playing with everybody, so it was just a blast having Shelby and Yannick on my line to start the game,” Jedrzejek said. “It was their last games here, too, so it was really cool to experience that with them, to experience their playing styles and to mold and gel with them. I can’t wait to see where we’re headed.”
Liberty (22-2) outshot Adrian 37-29 and Keith made 28 saves.
“She had some good saves on a bunch of broken plays where she probably looked her best, just scrambling,” Lowes said. “She’s had such a good year for her first year for a goalie on a team where the expectations are high and she’s done such a good job of handling that pressure.”
He was thrilled to send off Jedrzejek and fellow senior forwards Truter and Brityn Fussy and defenseman Julia McDonald with a victory, with many of their family members and friends in attendance.
“It was a special day to recognize those four,” Lowes said. “It’s such a cool thing as a coach to take a step back and think about things big-picture, to look at the experiences and what these girls have done in four years, what they mean to our program. These four are all incredible kids, great hockey players but great teammates that love on each other and are really the core veterans in building our culture.”
The seeding for next weekend’s WMCH Tournament in St. Louis, where Liberty will seek to win its fourth title in a row, will be determined by the final ACHA Division I national rankings to be released next Sunday.
“I’m guessing we will play Minnesota (in Friday’s quarterfinals),” Lowes said. “We could get McKendree and Minot, the last two teams to beat us (on Jan. 20, snapping a 57-game streak, and Jan. 28, respectively), in the semifinals and final. It could be like a national semifinals preview.”
He believes the Lady Flames are primed to peak for the postseason, as they gear up to challenge for their fifth consecutive national crown, March 16-20 in Marlborough, Mass.
“I feel like we’re in a good spot,” Lowes said. “It will be interesting to see next weekend just how things go, but I think our girls are ready. You can’t play with playoff intensity all year. It’s too long. But I’ll be excited for our girls to see what else they have to bring to the playoffs.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Videos by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media