Slow starts troubled the University of Delaware women’s hockey team (16-2-1) in a weekend series against the Liberty Flames (12-2-1), suffering a 5-3 defeat on Saturday night (Feb. 10) before battling back from a 4-0 deficit to earn a 5-5 tie on Sunday afternoon (Feb. 11) in Newark, Del.
Saturday, Feb. 10 • Liberty 5, Delaware 3
Out of action for two months prior to Saturday night’s game at Gold Arena, The Blue Hens struggled early in their own zone. After a scoreless first 12 minutes, an aware Liberty forecheck scored two quick goals to establish the lead, batting loose pucks past goalie Emily Becker to take the early advantage. Julia Hoffmeier and Lauren Pillisch both found the back of the net for the Flames from right in front of the crease in the 13th and 14th minutes before Alexis Early added a short-handed goal from the right side which bounced off the far post and over the goal line with 26 seconds left in the first period.
Down 3-0 at the intermission, Delaware showed some life in the middle period. Shannon Breen earned her fifth of the season at 7:04 with a power-play goal off a rebound that materialised from an initial shot from McKenzie Schurman at the left point. At the 10:56 mark, Emily Hockey tallied her 21st goal of the year, connecting on a centring pass from Breen to bring the Hens within a goal.
Hockey nearly had the equaliser for Delaware 2:28 in the third period, but she batted the puck past Liberty goalie Faith Gerber with a high stick, resulting in the goal being disallowed. The Flames responded with a pair of late goals: KJ Hoberg and Brittany Hegele both beat Becker on the stick side to increase their lead to 5-2. A final Delaware goal came from Melissa Macrides off a rebound of a Carlie Smythe chance from the right half wall with 96 seconds remaining, but the Hens’ late push was too little and too late despite registering 48 total shots on goal.
Sunday, Feb. 11 • Delaware 5, Liberty 5 (OT)
In almost identical fashion as the night prior, Delaware gave up the first four goals of the game, but battled back fiercely through the final 32 minutes to earn a single point in a 5-5 draw. Following Kira Rice’s 25th-minute breakaway attempt which trickled over the goal line to give Liberty a 4-0 lead, Delaware coach Ken Deming used his time out to enable his troops to regroup. They fired back with three second-period goals and a sustained push in the third period which culminated with Mary Claire Newtown’s game-tying goal with 66 seconds left in regulation.
With Delaware netminder Emily Becker pulled in favour of an extra attacker late in the penultimate minute of regulation, centre Emily Hockey won an offensive-zone faceoff from the left circle, fed the puck back to Newtown at the left point, and the Illinois native beat Liberty goalie Faith Gerber from long range to tie the game at five goals apiece. It was the 20th goal of the season for the Hens blueliner.
Earlier in the third period, KJ Hoberg of the Flames and Callan Small of the Hens exchanged goals. Hoberg’s third of the game from the right dot at the 4:42 mark showcased her strong shot as well as her earlier two goals. At the 12:22 mark in the first, Hoberg rifled the puck under Emily Becker’s glove from just inside the left circle, and she found the five-hole 3:30 in the second period from a tough angle just above the goal line fro mthe left side.
Leading scorer Carlie Smythe had a hand in all three second-period goals for Delaware, assisting Melissa Macrides at 8:27 before tallying her 26th of the season with a backhand from the left edge of the crease at 12:02 and her 27th with a mid-slot wrist shot at 13:32.