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FGCU Hockey Sweeps Rival Liberty to Stay on Top of ACHA DII Southeast

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Blake Stafford @bstaff7

FGCU men’s Division II club hockey returned to action on Dec. 1 and 2 after a week off for Thanksgiving break. They welcomed one of their rivals, Liberty University, who entered these games with a 10-4-1 record. This was a highly anticipated set of games for the Eagles and Flames as both teams sit within the top five of the Southeast in the ACHA.

The Eagles came into this game after most recently securing a 9-5 victory against Lindenwood University, giving FGCU a record of 13-2-1 for the season so far. The Eagles were aiming to continue their momentum in hopes of staying at the top of the ACHA DII standings.

After the initial faceoff opened up the first game, neither team seemed to have the edge early on. Both teams got shots off and on goal, but the game was scoreless through the first period.

The only thing of note in the first period was a penalty from FGCU graduate student and forward Connor Lenaghan for tripping.

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As the game entered the second period, both teams came out of the gate full of aggression. Liberty looked to get the first goal on the board, showing the most promise on offense against a tough Eagles’ defense.

The game’s first goal came near the end of the second period off of a breakaway that left a one-on-one between the Liberty goalie and FGCU junior forward Shane Murphy. Murphy punched in his ninth goal of the season with assists from junior defenseman Shane Romback and junior forward Carson Engelmann.

Heading into the third period, Liberty looked for their opportunity to score. However, the final period was scoreless until the final three minutes.

As time ticked down, the Flames pulled their goalie for an extra attacker. This move ended disastrously as FGCU was able to score a goal on the empty net with just under three minutes to go. Sophomore defenseman Brady Carlock scored the goal with an assist from Murphy.

With the Eagles’ two-goal advantage, there was not enough time for the Flames to rally back. FGCU senior forward Spence Van Tiem scored the third and final goal of the game on a power play to seal the game off for good measure. 

FGCU won the first game, 3-0, in dominating fashion against Liberty as they looked to do the same going into the second game.

As soon as the puck was dropped for game two, FGCU trailed. It was the first time in the last two games that the Eagles started the game from behind. The Flames scored in under two minutes, showing they were a different team than the day before.

The Eagles continued to trail until 13 minutes in when they got their first goal of the game. This goal came from junior forward Shanye Tomlinson on a power play, his 16th goal of the season, the most for the Eagles on the year. Liberty responded by scoring right back, giving them a one-goal advantage heading into the first intermission.

Going into the second period, the Eagles knew they had to make adjustments if they wanted to get back into the game. This showed itself as the Eagles proceeded to score their next four goals unanswered in just under ten minutes.

The flurry of goals started with Murphy and Van Tiem scoring their second goals of the weekend. Graduate student and forward Wyatt Engelmann got the Eagles their third goal of the period. Van Tiem closed this run with his third goal against the Flames, the most from any Eagle during this doubleheader.

Liberty rallied right back however, scoring three goals of their own before the period came to a close. Entering the last period of the game, the game was tied at 5-5. There was only a brief period of time where one team had the advantage over the other. This did not include the flurry of penalties each team had, showcasing the intensity of the game.

Unexpectedly, the high-scoring second period did not translate into the third period. Only one goal was scored between both teams, but it came from FGCU early in the period. Junior forward Dylan Castello scored the final goal that proved to be the deciding factor in the game as the Eagles defeated the Flames, 6-5.

The FGCU men’s club hockey team returns to Hertz Arena for their final weekend of play before the winter break with games tomorrow and Saturday. With their two wins over Liberty this past weekend, FGCU improves to 15-2-1. The Eagles will welcome the 10-6-1 University of Massachusetts, UMass, on Dec. 8 and 9. 

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About the Contributor
Jeffrey Hrunka, Assistant Sports Editor
Jeffrey Hrunka is a junior double majoring in communications and journalism with a concentration in public relations. Jeffrey is from Fort Myers where his interest in sports journalism originated after falling in love with the world of motorsports. When he’s not working for Eagle News, he is usually spending time with friends, watching the New York Giants lose, or chilling in the pool.

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