No. 17 Arizona Hockey (2-0-7) was swept by No. 10 Liberty (10-2-4) this weekend in Tucson during a two-game showdown.
Earlier in the season, Arizona suffered an 8-0 loss to Liberty but then rallied from a three-goal third-period deficit to salvage a shoot-out win against the Flames on Oct. 4 to split the series at the LaHaye Ice Center.
“We are much more further along this time when we played Liberty … because earlier in the season we weren’t prepared due to the lack of ice time, so that loss I can live with, but this one hurts more to me,” UA hockey head coach Chad Berman said.
The Flames got their first American Collegiate Hockey Association sweep of the 2014-15 season as they beat the Wildcats on their home ice by a 4-3 score on both Friday and Saturday.
“I do not think we played as disciplined as we usually do during this game,” UA forward player Alex O’Dea said. “We took a lot of bad penalties, and it came to cost us in the end.”
Liberty was continuously being denied by Arizona starting goalie Garrett Patrick on multiple shots around the Wildcats’ cage. Arizona defenseman Matt Nowicki assisted Robbie Wilkinson on a breakaway to score a shorthanded goal that cut Liberty’s lead to 3-2.
Liberty then extended its lead to 4-2 as Flames forward Luke Hannon scored his second goal of the night.
O’Dea tied it up with 48 seconds left in the period on a one-timer from deep in the left crease assisted by freshman Alex Nespor from behind the net.
“Friday night, we had only one line going with Wilkinson, O’Dea and Adamowicz,” Berman said. “Other than that, we just wasted an opportunity to win. There are definitely going to be some line changes.”
Arizona forward Matt Reed scored his first goal of the season off an assist from defenseman Will Pointon.
“We played a top-10 team who came in flat Friday night and we were okay with it, but I am not okay with that at all,” Berman said.
On Saturday night, the Flames outshot Arizona with 56 shots to the Wildcats’ 25. However, Liberty still trailed for more than half of the third period before Flames Ryley Egan hit a buzzer-beater to push the game into overtime.
Arizona was down 2-1 after the second period, but forward Alex Vazquez netted the equalizer on a far shot in the left circle early into the third period. Initially scratched from the lineup after being ejected from Friday night’s game, Vazquez scored his first goal of the season.
“I had to make sure I played smart and aggressive, but smart-style play,” Vazquez said. “Also, [I had to] make sure I wasn’t taking any penalties, but make sure I was still taking the body because Liberty plays an aggressive game, and I had to match it and step up for the team.”
Jason Effertz scored his first goal of the season to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game.
During overtime, Hannon won a faceoff in the defensive end and fired the game winner off a fast-break assist from Lindsay LeBlanc midway through the five-minute overtime to dish Arizona a devastating one goal loss.
Despite the loss, Patrick played particularly well, especially against multiple penalty kills.
“Completely devastating, I mean, just the loss,” Patrick said. “My job is to just give our team a chance to win, and I tried to do that, but the puck just didn’t bounce the right way at the end. Hopefully, we can learn and build from this, but right now, it’s just really devastating.”
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