No. 1 Lady Flames show renewed energy, complete sweep at No. 2 Adrian on Keith’s fourth shutout
The morning after waging a dogfight against the No. 2-ranked Bulldogs, Liberty University’s ACHA Division I women’s hockey team demonstrated why it is the No. 1-ranked, four-time defending national champion. In Saturday’s rematch with Adrian College at the Arrington Ice Arena, the Lady Flames (12-0) extended their winning streak to 52 games by getting goals from four different players and a fourth consecutive shutout performance by freshman goalie Alex Keith in a 4-0 win.
“It was a good weekend for us and a good start to the year,” Liberty Head Coach Chris Lowes said. “You don’t know where you’re at until you play a top team. We knew with Adrian being undefeated, we would get tested.”
He said the flow of Saturday’s game was much more in the Lady Flames’ favor compared to Friday’s opener.
“Yesterday’s game was very chaotic, with lots of changes in momentum and a lot of goals back and forth,” Lowes said. “They scored on broken plays, scramble plays and rebounds in front of the net, and today our posts did a better job of locking down defensively and limiting second chances.”
He didn’t blame the 12-hour road trip for the Lady Flames’ comparatively lethargic outing on Friday, but could definitely notice the difference after they had a good night’s sleep.
“Our legs looked better, our energy looked a little better, we were skating better as a team,” Lowes said. “We didn’t make as many mental mistakes, our D zone limited their odd-man rushes, we made some better decisions, and overall, it was a good game. We were able to get out in open ice a little bit more, and we looked a little smoother and didn’t commit as many unforced turnovers.”
After being outshot by Adrian the night before, the Lady Flames edged the Bulldogs in shots, 30-28, and Keith made 28 saves to secure her fourth shutout in five starts.
“You’re always worried about the defensive side and when you can hold a dangerous team without a goal, that’s a good sign,” Lowes said. “Alex (Keith) showed a lot of poise and maturity for her first year and was excited to be challenged. She made some big saves as they had a bunch of really good chances.”
Many of those came with Adrian on the power play, including a couple 5-on-3s and a 6-on-3 near the end of the contest.
“There were lots of special teams today and we had to kill a lot of penalties,” Lowes said.
Liberty scored twice in the first period, the first on its only power play goal (out of nine chances) by senior defenseman Aislyn Stretch assisted by sophomore defenseman Madison Glynn and junior forward Rianna Spanier. That lifted the Lady Flames to a 1-0 lead at the 11:30 mark and less than four minutes later, sophomore forward Isabella Hervert finished feeds from freshman forward Brookelyn Beauchamp and senior forward Yannick Truter to make it 2-0.
Spanier netted the only goal of the second period off assists from graduate forward Danica Polson and freshman defenseman Emerson Oakes before sophomore forward Haley Battles capped the scoring with 6:18 remaining in regulation after a steal and breakaway leading to an unassisted, top-shelf finish.
Lowes said the weekend showdown between the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the league will benefit the Lady Flames down the road, as they prepare to defend their WMCH conference and ACHA DI national tournament titles near St. Louis and Boston, respectively.
“(Adrian) exposed some things in who we are, which is part of the reason why we want to play the best teams in the ACHA,” Lowes said. “When you play a good team, it highlights your mistakes and turnovers. Defensively, they did some things and we missed some assignments and had a few letdowns, but we are coming out with some good video and know what changes we need to make. There is still a lot we can clean up in our game.”
Liberty returns to the LaHaye Ice Center next weekend to host No. 11 Maryville University on Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m., its last series before Thanksgiving Break. When it returns, it will travel to No. 8 Arizona State on Dec. 2-3 to conclude fall semester play before gearing up for a Christmas Break trip to Finland.
“The semester’s going fast, for sure,” Lowes said.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer