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FGCU hockey extinguishes Liberty Flames

The Florida Gulf Coast University
men’s hockey team faced the Liberty
University Flames on Friday, Oct. 25 and
Saturday, Oct. 26. During this game, FGCU
held “Friends and Family Weekend” with
Partners for Breast Cancer Care, Inc., with
all fundraising efforts going to the non-profit
organization. When Liberty came to Florida
to face the Eagles, they held a record of 11-1
and proved on the ice that they were the
most challenging team FGCU faced thus far.
On Friday night, Liberty demonstrated
that they were determined to exhaust the
Eagles on the ice. They matched FGCU in
shots, with 11 each during the first period.
But it was the Green and Blue who would get
on the board first. Dan Echeverri scored the
sole goal for the first period against Flames’
starting goaltender Cary Byron, bringing
the Eagles up 1-0 over the Flames.
The second period began with more
rapid-fire shots, rough hitting, players
crashing into boards and excellent defense
by both teams. For 15 minutes of play in
the second period, the score remained at
1-0 until Liberty player Brad Docksteader
knocked one past FGCU starting goaltender
Mike Reed to tie the game. The Eagles
quickly countered during the 14th minute
of play when Echeverri scored his second
goal for the night, bringing the momentum
right back to the Green and Blue. Less than
a minute later, Logan Garst scored a third
goal for the Eagles to add to his tally of two
assists for the evening.
“We have to come out hard every time.
No game is any different,” Garst said. “We
were a little sloppy at times and need to
improve on that but overall played well
together as the team we are.”
Liberty player John Cotton squeezed in
a buzzer-beater to end the period 3-2 with
FGCU still on top. The Eagles outshot the
Flames 13-10 during the second period.
The keepers managed to protect the net
for the first 15 minutes of the third period
until Bryan Valancy scored one for FGCU,
bringing them up 4-2 over the Flames.
The two-goal lead didn’t last long when
Liberty countered only 20 seconds later.
Flames’ player Jordan Barstead put in a
third goal against the FGCU keeper, and
within minutes the teams took a time-out
to strategize. With only 44 seconds left on
the clock, Liberty pulled their goaltender,
leaving the net empty to bring on an extra
player against the Eagles in hopes of tying
the game. Before they could even get a shot
off, Echeverri slapped a shot down the ice
into the empty net, giving him his third goal
of the night and his third hat trick of the
season. Carlo DiPiazza added two assists to
his tally tonight. Echeverri added an assist
to his night, and Nick Schilson gained one
assist. Final score for the game ended 5-3
in favor of FGCU. The Eagles outshot their
opponent 37-33 and earned four penalty
minutes while the Flames gained eight.
“They won a lot of battles early in
the game,” FGCU assistant coach Mike
Lendino said. “The turning point came in
the middle of the second period, around the
eight minute mark and got the momentum
moving more there. Mike Reed made all the
saves he needed to make to keep us in this
game. We fought through it; we didn’t have
our best effort as a team but we had certain
guys who worked harder and were probably
some of the ones responsible for pulling out
our victory. I think they got some of their
nerves out tonight. This is a big match-up in
our region. We know what’s on the line from
the rankings position.”
On Saturday night, the Flames came
into Germain Arena looking for a serious
rematch after Friday’s loss to the Eagles.
Within the first minute, Liberty player
Devon Docksteader got the first goal on
the board. For the first time in the season,
the Eagles didn’t have the first goal of the
game. When the Eagles got a chance to
tie the game, the goal came at the hands of
DiPiazza with assists from Echeverri and
Kurt Williams.
“I think the team chemistry came very
fast for us, and it seemed so natural. We’re
working so well together so far, and I hope
it just keeps getting better for us,” Williams
said. “Each week we’re getting closer.
Thursday night we went out and had a team
dinner and saw a movie. The team bonding
we’re building off the ice only makes us a
better team on the ice.”
After the tie, the turning point came for
the Green and Blue. During the 13th minute
of the period, Jack Emmer got a pass from
Valancy and scored another goal for the
Eagles, giving Valancy his first point of the
night. Only two minutes later, Echeverri
scored a
shorthanded goal in what would be another
huge night for the captain.
When the second period started, the
momentum laid solely with FGCU. The guys
on this team weren’t only playing for the
team, the organization and the university;
they were playing for something bigger. This
weekend was about the people who came
out and supported them, win or lose, as
well as their friends and family. They were
playing for a great cause, and the jerseys
they would be playing in all night were
coming right off their backs and going into
the hands of their fans. They came to play,
and they came to win.
With the Eagles on their nearly
unstoppable power play, Echeverri scored
another goal during the second minute of
play with assists from DiPiazza and Nick
Schilson. During the sixth minute of the
period, Valancy gave the Green and Blue
their fifth goal on the board. DiPazza added
his third point for the night and Kristian
Avellanet earned an assist on Valancy’s goal
also.
“Our forwards were back-checking
more than they were Friday night, and our
defensemen were staying home instead of
pinching,” Valancy said. “It’s a whole team
contribution. I think we have a lot ahead of
us this season.”
With the Flames down by four goals,
they pulled out starting goaltender Nick
Devine and brought in Byron to replace
him. Only three minutes after bringing in
the fresh goalie, Echeverri’s stick caught
fire again, and he scored his third goal of the
night with an assist from Valancy. That goal
gave Echeverri his fourth hat trick in eight
games.
“Right now we’re trying to go undefeated
all the way to Nationals, and we’re going to
surprise everybody. I just can’t wait until
we get there,” Echeverri said. “Everybody
is doing their jobs no matter what and that’s
what keeps us winning.”
Things started to turn around for the
Flames when in the next eight minutes
players Eric Burke and Paul Ingles managed
to get two goals on the board for Liberty.
But with only 17 seconds left in the period,
Echeverri made a pass to Garst, who shot
one in the back of the Flames’ net. Echeverri
now has 35 points and is on par to get over
100 this season.
At the end of the second intermission,
the silent auction came to a close. All of the
bids had been received and winners would
be rewarded with their favorite players’
jerseys at the end of the game. The fans
had to wait for their jerseys during a long
20 minutes of play in the third period with
incredible defense by both teams, with
neither keeper allowing a single goal in the
net.
“It’s the team as a whole, not just
defense. Our forwards play defense as well,”
said Mike Gutowitz, Eagles’ defenseman.
“We have strong players like Garst when
there was a three on none Friday night, and
he comes and back-checks to save a goal
that could’ve changed the whole game. We
knew they were going to be a better team
than what we’ve faced before. So we just had
to work hard to keep the goal out of the back
of the net. There’s a lot of skill on this team.
We’re dealing with a few injuries and still
staying strong.”
The final score ended 7-3 in favor of
FGCU. The Eagles and the Flames tied each
other in shots with 39 each. The Green and
Blue racked up a total of 38 penalty minutes
with Liberty only earning 24. Overall, the
weekend was not only a great win for the
team but also a win for the organization
and a win for breast cancer awareness. The
Eagles packed Germain Arena’s Blue rink to
the max with 550 fans on both Friday and
Saturday nights.
“The friends and family are great
supporters of the University and now of the
Partners of Breast Cancer Care. It was a
lot of work,” said General Manager Richard
Snizek. “The volunteers we had really pulled
together. We had a good time doing it, and
the guys enjoyed it too. We brought in a lot of
money, well over $1,000 tonight, so ‘Friends
and Family Weekend’ was a great success.”
FGCU will face the Southern New
Hampshire Penmen at 8:30 p.m. on Friday
on Germain Arena’s Blue rink. Game tickets
cost $5 each and FGCU students can enter
free with their Eagle ID cards.

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