Power surge: Recharged Flames soar past Seawolves for series sweep
Seven unanswered goals by seven different players allowed Liberty University’s No. 7-ranked ACHA Division I men’s hockey team to quickly and convincingly erase an early 1-0 deficit and complete a sweep of former ESCHL rival Stony Brook, trouncing the No. 10 Seawolves, 7-1, on Saturday night at the LaHaye Ice Center.
“Our guys played a solid game tonight,” Flames Head Coach Kirk Handy said after his team improved to 8-4. “We had fantastic goaltending and … it’s a big win for us and a great response after last night. Are there things we can clean up? For sure. Are there ways that we can be better? Absolutely. But I’m proud of our guys. It’s good to get us rolling.”
Liberty outshot Stony Brook (8-3) by a 55-42 count and senior goalie Hunter Virostek, designated the “star of the game” afterwards, made 41 saves. Both teams converted 1-of-5 power-play opportunities.
The Seawolves capitalized with just two seconds remaining on their first man advantage when Michael Galinski took a wraparound assist from Jesse Edwards in the left crease and put it past Virostek from point-blank range with 9:44 left in the first period.
But the Flames responded with back-to-back goals off long-range shots through traffic in front to seize a 2-1 lead just over four minutes later.
Freshman defenseman Laz Kaebel netted the equalizer on a power play with a howitzer of a blast from the high slot off an assist from at the 6:09 mark. Only 27 seconds elapsed before freshman defenseman Colten Kovich received a pass from Kaebel and unleashed a rocket from the right point that sophomore forward Truett Olson deflected past Stony Brook goalie Matvei Kazakov for the go-ahead goal.
“That was really awesome for us to be given a challenge and then respond to it, which we did well,” said senior forward Jackson Vercellono, who was on Olson’s line along with junior forward Jacob Kalyndyk, with all three scoring goals. “It definitely was a team effort.”
Seawolves forward Brandon Avezov, who netted a hat trick against the Flames in Friday night’s 6-5 setback, had his backhand on a breakaway denied by Virostek early in the second period.
Then, with the teams skating 4-on-4, Kalandyk made a spectacular move with the puck on a counterattack, slicing through Stony Brook defensemen from the right circle into the slot where he lifted a backhanded wrist shot into the top-left corner of the cage past Kazakov, stretching the lead to 3-1 with 15:13 to go in the period.
Virostek stuffed a shot by Edwards in the left crease on a shorthanded 2-on-1 break before William Kormanik struck the near post with a shot from deep in the left circle.
Liberty had a goal by sophomore defenseman Luke Heimann disallowed after an official’s review but added two more scores that counted in the final 6:19. The first came on a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing sequence from sophomore DII call-up Josh Harrell out of the left corner to Kris Bladen at the top of the left circle to fellow junior forward DJ Schwenke in the slot for a quick turnaround wrist shot inside the left post.
“(Harrell) played well tonight for us,” Handy said. “Josh competed the whole night. Hats off to that guy. He’s a warrior and he battled hard.”
Then, with 4:48 left in the period, junior forward Kam Ottenbreit received a short outlet pass from Kaebel and waltzed up the right wing before beating Kazakov from close range with a low shot inside the left post for a 5-1 Flames advantage.
Midway through the third period, Liberty extended its lead to 6-1 on freshman forward Sam Feamster’s power putback in the right crease of senior defenseman Colin Baird’s shot from along the left boards.
Finally, with 10.8 seconds remaining, Vercellono received a short pass off the back boards from Olson and ripped a point-blank wrist shot past Kazakov from the right crease.
The Flames return to the LIC next weekend to conclude their six-game homestand with another series against a former ESCHL foe, Delaware. Vercellono said the Flames will need to limit their penalties to have similar success against the Blue Hens, as well as in games against NCAA Division I Alaska Anchorage and top-ranked UNLV the following week in Las Vegas.
“We’re looking to go in game by game and start hot and keep things rolling … and get a good flow going,” Vercellono said. “We’ve got to work out our kinks with our penalties now so we’re not in the box the whole time when we’re playing against teams that can capitalize.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Videeo by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media