Newark, Del. — Twenty-five seconds into overtime, centre Stephen Bryson redirected the rebound of an Alec Rankin slap shot into the Liberty net, and was mobbed by a jubilant University of Delaware Division 2 men’s hockey team (13-3-0, #4 SE) after they completed a thrilling 5-4 win over arch rival Liberty (9-3-1, #5 SE) on Sunday afternoon at Fred Rust Arena.
After being overpowered on the initial face-off of the four-on-four extra period, Rankin and Bryson generated a two-on-two attack over the Liberty blue line. Rankin fired a slap shot from the top of the zone that rebounded straight up toward the rafters off Liberty goalie Adam Partridge, and Bryson directed it past on the way back down for the game-winner, sealing the Blue Hens’ first win over the Flames since November 2014.
Liberty jumped out to early control, taking advantage of Hens’ defenceman Tyler Swift being issued a hooking minor in the 12th minute of the first period with their first of two power-play goals. Matthew Perry took aim from the left dot off a Tim Doe feed at 11:44 to put the Flames on the board, and Eric Masters followed with his fifth seasonal goal at 14:36 after fielding a Jackson Roy headman pass, generating a one-on-one up the left wing boards, and finding the low right corner of the Delaware goal.
It took some time for the Blue Hens to build momentum after being outshot 14-9 in the first period, but they enjoyed a wave of productivity in the second period. Larry Hooper halved the Flames’ lead with his second goal of the year after a Jeremy DeWit shot rebounded off Partridge’s pads at 9:14, but the Flames re-extended their lead to two following a poorly-executed Delaware line change landed the Hens shorthanded. Doe gave the Flames their second power-play goal of the game and a 3-1 lead with an easy net-front redirect off a Devin Melice feed with 2:23 left in the second, but Devin LeBlanc rifled off a pair of rapid-fire cannons from 15 and 25 feet respectively to tie the game at three goals apiece before the second intermission.
Jeremy DeWit gave the Hens their first lead with 10:40 left in regulation, punching the puck past Partridge amid a net-front scrum. Five minutes later, Roy — leading scorer among Liberty blue liners with five goals and six assists this season — fired a hard wrist shot from the left point to beat Delaware goalie Stephen Odgers, the only shot of 17 in the third period that Odgers failed to save. Improved defence from Delaware — despite Andrew Marciniak and Dan Demas both being out of the lineup with upper-body injuries — fended off a further flurry of Liberty shots and set up Bryson’s overtime goal.
Liberty outshot Delaware, 47-27, and was 2-for-4 on the power play while Delaware was 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
The Hens, who improved to 3-0-0 in Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Conference competition, travel to New Jersey next weekend to face a pair of conference rivals in Rider (Fri., Nov. 16) and Rowan (Sat., Nov. 17). Both games will air on Delaware Hockey Night Radio.