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    December 3, 2022 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Despite a sold-out crowd in the LaHaye Ice Center, Liberty University’s No. 2-ranked ACHA Division I men’s hockey team sustained a 3-2 setback in Saturday morning’s “Midnight Mayhem” matchup with No. 10 Maryville University. It was only the second meeting between the two teams after the Flames (12-6) had ousted the Saints (13-4) from the first round of the 2021 ACHA DI National Championships in St. Louis.

    The first period featured three of the five goals in the contest, including both of Liberty’s scores, as the Flames’ faithful fans got into the Christmas spirit early with plenty to cheer about.

    After both teams sent a barrage of pucks on the opposing cages early, Liberty freshman forward Sam Feamster finally found the net with a one timer after a pass from junior forward Kam Ottenbreit with 11:47 left in the first period. Junior forward DJ Schwenke also recorded an assist on the play.

    This goal set the tone for the period, and both teams became more aggressive as the intensity heightened with the energy from the crowd. This aggression spilled over into the night’s first fight midway through the stanza, resulting in a four-minute major penalty assessed to Flames freshman defenseman Lazarus Kaebel and a two-minute penalty to Max Gaudet from the Saints.

    Maryville took full advantage of the power play following two minutes of 4-on-4 play and scored with only seconds remaining on the 5-on-4. After senior goalie Hunter Virostek turned away several promising looks for the Saints, Jack Harrison slapped the puck between the pipes off an assist from Chad MacIlwain, who had won the left-circle faceoff in the Maryville offensive zone. Due to a lower back injury, Virostek was replaced by senior goalie Cédric Le Sieur immediately after the goal.

    Liberty senior forward Matt Bartel faces off against a Maryville player.

    Liberty reclaimed the lead with its second goal of the period after an interference penalty on Saints starting goalie Johnny Massara. Schwenke struck gold off a quick pass from junior forward Jason Foltz off a secondary assist from senior forward Josh Fricks, as his deflection past Maryville replacement goalie Edward Coffey put the Flames on top 2-1 with 45 seconds left in the first period.

    The first-period fireworks did not carry over to the second, with Maryville scoring the only goal to draw even with Liberty. Following a penalty against the Flames, T.J. Prexler received a perfect pass from Jaxon White and beat Le Sieur for the equalizer with 4:42 left to play.

    Tied going into the third, both teams prepared for an adrenaline-filled final 20 minutes.

    With 14:40 remaining in regulation, Schwenke was sentenced to two minutes in the sin bin for a hooking penalty, setting up a power play opportunity for the Saints. This opportunity quickly vanished when Prexler received a penalty for crosschecking after the play and spent two minutes of his own in the penalty box, resulting in two minutes of 4-on-4 play.

    Maryville refused to be deterred by the squandered power play chance and an unassisted goal by Lucas Adams one minute later propelled the Saints into the lead with what would be the last score of the contest.

    Head Coach Kirk Handy said the Flames’ pushback was limited after midnight.

    “I think it was just more of the mentality that we didn’t have, and that we wanted to have,” Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said after the game. “I just didn’t feel like there was a ton of pushback from our players tonight.”

    Virostek and Le Sieur combined for 41 saves as Maryville outshot the Flames, 44-39. Handy complimented Le Sieur on his play following Virostek’s injury.

    “Cedric played well for us tonight,” he said.

    Penalties played a major role in the contest, with Liberty scoring on its only power play and Maryville scoring two of its three goals with the man advantage, the third coming in 4-on-4 action. Liberty finished with five total penalties compared to the Saints’ three infractions.

    The Flames will face off against the Saints again Saturday at 7 p.m. in LaHaye Ice Center for another heavyweight battle between two of the top 10 teams in the ACHA. This game will mark Liberty’s last before final exams and Christmas break, after which the team will travel to open the spring semester against No. 7 Ohio University on Jan. 13-14.

    By Christian Shields/Staff Writer; Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media