Liberty University’s team may be called the Flames, but it was Ohio University’s hockey squad that was on fire at Bird Arena this weekend.
With a 10-2 record against OU the last five seasons, Liberty has had a virtual stranglehold on the Bobcats.
This incarnation of Bobcats’ Hockey, though, started Friday’s game intent on loosening that stranglehold and making their own mark against the Flames.
And despite a chess match defensively to start Friday’s game and a come-from-behind win on Saturday, OU did just that.
Seventh-ranked OU dominated the number three-ranked team from Lynchburg, VA, from start to finish in Friday’s 7-0 shutout and kept up the winning ways with a 5-2 win Saturday night.
Both teams made statements defensively in the first period and both goaltenders, Max Karlenzig for Ohio and Hunter Virostek for Liberty, continued to awe and punish in net, surrendering nothing to the other.
Until about three quarters had passed in the opening stanza, that is, when the home team got on the scoreboard first, with the Captain, Sam Turner, making a statement goal for OU and showing that this hockey squad is different than the ones the Flames have encountered in the past. Hollander Thompson got the assist on the score and it was 1-0 Bobcats.
The good guys only had to wait about three minutes and change to get the insurance goal, as senior Andrew Sacca made it 2-0 with 2 minutes and 11 seconds left the stanza. Andrew Wells (playing in his 100th game) and Ryan Higgins were credited with the assist on the score.
The first ended with the Bobcats on top in both goals and shots on the net, a stat they led 15-9 over Liberty.
Now would come the hard part.
Liberty, then at 13-5 and ranked number three in the country, was not going to give up without a fight and would surely regroup during the intermission and come out fighting to start the second.
That didn’t exactly happen, though, as Liberty got the first penalty of the night, an interference call on Sam Feamster.
Back at even strength, the Bobcats then took a 3-0 lead on forward Phil Angervil’s first goal of the season with 12:31 left in the second. Thompson got his second assist on the night on the score, with D-man Blake Rossi credited with the second helper.
That prompted Liberty to take a timeout to try and regroup from a dominating Bobcats offensive juggernaut thus far in the game.
It didn’t help the visitors, though, as a minute later, with 9:15 left in the second, freshman forward Laker Aldridge made it 4-0. Spencer Schons got the assist on Aldridge’s 19th goal of the season.
That’s how the second ended with a four-goal lead for the home team, which also led in shots on goal 25-15 at the completion of 40 minutes of play.
On to the third, and it quickly became evident that OU wasn’t letting their foot off the pedal at all.
Just one minute and fifteen seconds into the final period, a second goal of the night for Aldridge made it 5-0. JT Schimizzi was credited with the assist on the score and the Bobcats were off and running once again.
And the Bobcats weren’t done quite yet.
Adding to his two assists for the night, Thompson got a sixth OU goal later in the third to continue the rout. Collin Felton and Luc Reeve were credited with the assists.
Thompson was clearly having a night that dreams are made of as a second goal, this one a power play score, about two and a half minutes later that made it 7-0 and ended the scoring for the evening. Jack Glen and Reeve got the assists on that netter.
Despite outshooting OU 10-9 in the final stanza, it was Karlenzig who got his third shutout on the year. The Bobcats won the SOG stat 34-25.
The win between the pipes also scored the junior goalie the third star of the game, with Aldridge and Thompson receiving the second and first stars, respectively.
On Saturday, Karlenzig got his second-consecutive start between the pipes. And, no surprise here, but Jackson Glassford replaced Virostek in goal for the final game of the weekend series.
Saturday’s first period was dominated by defense on both sides of the puck.
A huge Karelnzig save about nine minutes into the game stopped Liberty from getting its first goal of the series.
Shots were knotted at seven halfway through the first and despite a few good efforts by both teams, the game remained scoreless.
Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot played through Bird Arena with less than three minutes left in the first, perhaps foreshadowing what was about to happen.
Either way, a Liberty interference penalty gave OU the advantage they needed to strike.
And strike they did.
Schmizzi got it past Glassford to get the only score of the period and OU was off and running. Assists on the score went to Collin Felton and Ryan Higgins.
The first period ended with shots on goal tied at 12.
In, perhaps, another coincidence musically, The Rolling Stones “Start Me Up” started playing to kick off the second period.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, it was Liberty that got started, as Matt Bartel scored the Flames’ first goal in the series to tie things up at one.
And the Flames weren’t done yet, as they took a 2-1 lead with a goal from Joe Clark with 16:49 left in period number two.
The question now was would the two Liberty goals prove to be a wakeup call for the Bobcats, who now trailed for the first time in this series.
A Bartel cross-check penalty with 15:08 left in the second would give the Bobcats the opportunity to try to even the score in the game.
A Kris Bladen slashing penalty with 14:22 left in the stanza provided even more fuel to the Bobcats’ fire as they embarked on a 5-on-3 for about 40 seconds.
OU, despite a valiant attempt and four shots on goal during the duration of both penalties, could not get one past Glassford, who was standing tall between the pipes for the visitors.
Until, that is, an even strength goal from Wells with 11:52 left tied things at two and re-energized both the Bobcat faithful and the team. Assist on the score went to Ryan Leonard.
Back in the game now, and on top in the SOG, 23-18 at the halfway mark of the second, OU got the insurance goal with 4:04 left in the period on a Thompson shot past Glassford. Hastings was credited with the assist.
That’s how the second ended with the home team on top in both the score and in shots on goal, 25-24.
Liberty would have a power play for the first 56 seconds of the final stanza following a Glen slashing penalty with 1:04 left in the second.
But, they got nothing from it. It was time for the OU power play to kick in and another 5-on-3 for the home team following two Flames ‘ penalties.
It got back to a one-man OU advantage, but they were able to capitalize on it, as a Sacca shot with 17:06 left in the game made it 4-2. Schmizzi and Collin Felton got the helpers on the senior forward’s 9th goal of the season.
Following a myriad of Liberty penalties, (the Flames had 12 during the game) but no scoring in the 14 ensuing minutes after Sacca’s goal, OU put the icing on the cake and blew out the candles on Liberty’s by going up 5-2 on an Aldridge score that was assisted on by Turner and Felton.
That wrapped up the scoring on the night and the series. Final shots on goal were 38-30 in favor of the good guys. OU ups its record to 19-4-1 on the season with the wins and Liberty drops to 13-8. Karlenzig got the back-to-back Ws with a .947 save percentage Saturday night. Of note, Higgins got his 100th career point in an OU sweater during the contest.
The three stars of Saturday’s game were Schimizzi, Felton and Thompson.
For head coach Lionel Mauron’s comments on the series see page A10.