DIII Flames moving up to BRHC's Colonial South Division
September 19, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Shifting from the Atlantic Division to the Colonial South Division of the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference could make for tougher sledding this season for Liberty University's ACHA Division III men's hockey team.
"Our schedule is a lot better this year," said Flames head coach Tristan Chambers, whose charges take the ice for their first preseason games against an 18-and-under squad from Greensboro, N.C., Friday at 11 p.m. and Saturday at 9 p.m., at the LaHaye Ice Center. "We won't be beating teams like we did last year with VMI (15-1 and 15-2). All the games will be pretty close."
The Flames were replaced by newcomer Virginia in the BRHC's Atlantic Southwest Division. That division now also includes Old Dominion, Radford, Virginia Commonwealth University, and rival James Madison University, which beat Liberty three times in 2012-13, including a season-ending 4-3 overtime setback Feb. 22 in the BRHC tournament at the LaHaye Ice Center.
Liberty will contend for the Colonial South Division crown with University of North Carolina Wilmington and UNC Charlotte as well as East Carolina University, which dropped down from the Division II level this season. The Flames will face those three teams twice and Colonial North Division opponents Christopher Newport University, Loyola (Md.), Richmond, and Salisbury State (Md.) once each.
But that shouldn't stop them from challenging for the BRHC Colonial Division tournament championship Feb. 7-9 in Abingdon, Md., as well as berths in the Feb. 21-22 South Regional Tournament in Columbia, S.C., and the March 11-15 ACHA DIII nationals in Coral Springs, Fla.
"We have a better chance of making regionals and better chance of making nationals," Chambers said, noting the top two teams earn automatic national bids and the third- through 10-ranked teams advance to regionals to compete for the last two spots.
Similar to Liberty's DI men's team in the final ACHA national rankings, the Flames ended last season ranked 13th in the ACHA's South Region, with only the top 10 teams advancing to the South Regionals. But two of those teams that finished above them are no longer in the equation — Kennesaw State, which was suspended for a year, and Alabama, which moved to the Pacific Division.
Chambers is confident the Flames can go farther this season because they return the nucleus of a team that won 14 consecutive games after splitting two overtime decisions in a season-opening series against CNU.
Though it lost starting goalie Cary Byron and forward Parker McIntyre, who were promoted to the DII team, Liberty brings back both of its captains — senior forward Brandon Cockburn, Liberty's leading scorer last year who injured his knee early in the final JMU game, and junior forward Chris Gurreri.
They will be complemented on attack by junior forward Austin Crossley, who sat out the second semester last year, senior forward Kyle Burman, who dropped down from the DII team, and junior forward Chad Docksteader, who ranked third on the team in total points.
"Our offense is going to be very good this year," Chambers said. "We should be able to put up a significant amount of points."
Defensively, Nate Atangan, Drew Muir, and Ryan Francis will anchor the Flames' back line and Daniel Flaherty is being challenged by freshmen Zach Potter and Jordan Legendre to replace Byron as the starter in goal.