Game #1 - Alabama 3, #15 Liberty 1
LYNCHBURG, Va. – The Alabama hockey program opened the season with a 3-1 victory over No. 15 Liberty in the Flames’ home-opener. With the win, the program has opened the season 1-0 in four consecutive seasons. Jesse Gordichuk faced a career-high 40 shots, but held Liberty to just one goal to earn the win.
“That’s expected,” head coach Kyle Richards said of Gordichuk. “He’s a big-time performer. He wants the spotlight and felt comfortable the whole way.”
Liberty opened the game with two quick penalties in the first five minutes, but Alabama could not capitalize on the advantage. Instead, with 14:26 on the clock, the Flames’ Sam Carlson scored short-handed off a faceoff in the Alabama zone. Junior goalie Jesse Gordichuk kept his team in the game on more than one occasion. He made two saves on clean breakaways to keep the Flames from extending their lead. The Flames held a 1-0 lead at the first intermission, but it would not last long.
Just 29 seconds into the second frame, senior Jeremy Hannah redirected junior Pierre Ouellette’s slap shot over the Flame’s goalie to tie the game. A little over three minutes later, freshman Vaughan Kavanaugh took his second penalty of the night to give Liberty its first power play of the night. Alabama didn’t let the penalty hold them back as senior Jon Lovorn scored his fifth career short-handed goal to give UA a 2-1 lead.
At the end of the period, a ruckus broke out in the corner of Alabama’s zone. The referees separated the players without handing out any penalties.
Three minutes into the final frame, junior Stephen MacInnis slid the puck across the front of the net where sophomore Marc Demers slapped it home to give Alabama a 3-1 lead.
The game got very physical down the stretch with multiple scrums in the final 10 minutes. With 3:37 to play, Liberty’s Ryan Cox pinned sophomore Felix Conrads to the ice resulting in a flurry of penalties. Cox took a five-minute major for head contact and was ejected from the game with a 10-minute misconduct. His teammate, Carlson, took two minors for slashing and roughing. Conrads was also given two roughing minors.
Liberty head coach Kirk Handy objected to the call and was charged with a bench minor for his persistent argument. Victor Blomberg served the penalty.
Gordichuk finished his Alabama debut with 39 saves to keep his team in control of the contest. The Flames outshot Alabama 40-16, but he made repeated diving saves to keep the puck out of the net.
“It’s going to exactly the same high pace [tomorrow],” he said. “They’re a fast, transitional team, and that’s something we’ve got to get used to. If we turn the puck over, they’re throwing it down our throats.”
Alabama and Liberty wrap up the series tomorrow afternoon. The puck is set to drop at 1 p.m. CT.