On second leg of N.D. trip, Flames net three unanswered goals to win first-ever faceoff with Jamestown
Trailing 1-0 entering the third period, Liberty University’s No. 3-ranked ACHA Division I men’s hockey team (7-2) rallied for three straight goals to avoid a third consecutive setback in Monday night’s series opener against No. 13 Jamestown University (3-3-1), a 3-1 triumph at Wilson Arena in Jamestown, N.D.
The Flames again relied on their penalty kill, which was unscored upon through the season’s first six games before giving up goals in Friday’s and Saturday’s losses at No. 4 Minot State. The PK unit turned in perhaps its best performance of the season in shutting down the Jimmies’ power play on Monday, while junior goalie Hunter Virostek made 38 saves and allowed only a first-period own goal to improve to 5-1 on the year.
“We killed off a bunch of penalties in the third period,” Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said. “Hats off to Hunter, first off. He played fantastic in goal tonight, and our penalty kill was phenomenal. They played some big minutes for us in that third period and they played very well.”
Jamestown, riding a three-game winning streak including a home sweep of Midland on Friday and Saturday, scored first with less than four minutes left in the first period. Forward Quin Garrison dumped a pass to linemate Phillippe Lessard on a fast break. Lessard guided the puck around the cage before it ricocheted off the skate of junior forward Matt Bartel through the five hole of Virostek, giving the Jimmies a 1-0 lead.
After killing a penalty early in the second period, Liberty missed chances on a four-on-three turned five-on-four power play. The Flames failed to convert on a three-on-one break before Virostek made a great save on Jamestown’s two-on-zero counterattack, preventing a shorthanded goal.
The Flames finally netted the equalizer 5:22 into the third period, when junior forward Brett Gammer received feeds from freshman defenseman Nate Cox and senior head captain Colin Baird and skated along the boards before launching a shot from the top of the left circle that lanced past Jamestown goalie Tyson Brouwer.
With the two teams skating four-on-four, the Jimmies were assessed a delayed penalty and the Flames pulled Virostek to give themselves a man advantage. Senior forward Josh Fricks dished the puck to freshman defenseman Nate Cox in the right circle, where he one-timed the putback of Cox’s shot from deep in the shot to lift Liberty to a 2-1 advantage with 8:18 to play.
“Our guys did a good job of composing themselves and getting some good opportunities off of (the delayed penalty), and that was a nice job by Fricks finding the back of the net,” Handy said.
Moments later, the Flames’ penalty kill shut down Jamestown on a five-on-three power play for more than a minute in addition to more than three more minutes of five-on-four action, with Virostek making a few clutch saves. Sophomore forward DJ Schwenke finally iced the victory with an empty-net goal off an assist from Gammer with 1.3 seconds to go.
“Schwenke and Gammer are part of our penalty kill crew that’s been doing a fantastic job for us, so when you see those guys get rewarded, it’s a great thing,” Handy said.
Liberty outshot Jamestown, 45-39, for the contest, the teams’ first-ever meeting.
“As the game went on, we played better in our defensive zone and I believe we’ll be better (for Tuesday’s 8 p.m. EST series finale),” Handy said. “This was a much-needed win for our guys and I like the way we did it. Jamestown played hard all night, and I like the way we battled.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer