Liberty gave up an early one to the Wildcats before scoring seven straight, unanswered goals to win their first round matchup over the University of Arizona 7-2.
Liberty got the goals from seven different players with all four lines contributing to the scoresheet, and Halpenny continued his strong play in net, stopping 15 of 17 Arizona shots. Defeating the Wildcats ended a 10-year drought of advancing past the first round, putting the Flames into the quarterfinals with heavyweight Lindenwood University.
The Flames have gotten close in past seasons to winning the first round, losing in overtime in 2018 and by two goals in 2017 (both to opponents out of the Western Collegiate Hockey League, the same conference as Arizona). However, the Flames would lose rookie forward Josh Fricks who was unable to return due to injury. Arizona’s Westlund was assessed a five minute major penalty on the hit to Fricks.
It was the battle of LUs, as Liberty looked to knock off the Lindenwood Lions in the last Quarterfinal game of the evening. Coming into Sunday’s game, Lindenwood, the undisputed #1 team in the nation, had lost one game all year and the Flames looked to make it two.
Jacob Fricks scored on a near-200-foot clear that handcuffed the Lindenwood netminder Cooper Seedott, giving the Flames a 1-0 lead. Lindenwood would bounce back, getting two goals in the next six minutes to regain the lead at 2-1. The Lions added to their lead in the second, going up 4-1 and taking complete control of the game.
In the third, the Flames would find life in a five minute power play, with Cruickshank and Pierce scoring late in the game to bring the Flames within one. Liberty used this momentum to push hard, testing Seedott on multiple occasions, but fell short of the comeback, losing a great game 4-3.
The loss ended another phenomenal season that was put together by the veteran Liberty team, which finished with a record of 26-7-3-1.
*Photo courtesy of Liberty University Marketing