Liberty to host ACHA DII Southeast Regional Tournament
September 24, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Home-ice advantage could play a major role in the success of Liberty University's American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II men's hockey team this season.
Liberty, which is already playing 25 of its 33 regular-season games at the LaHaye Ice Center, will host the ACHA DII Southeast Regional Tournament on Feb. 22-23.
Former Flames DII assistant coach Dave Kurtz, now in his second season as the ACHA DII Southeast Regional coordinator, will be in town this Saturday for Liberty's game against Bowling Green State, a DII national qualifier last year. He will have Flames representatives sign the paperwork to make the announcement official.
Liberty's DII men have lost on the second day of the past three Southeast Regional events, falling short in its quest to return to the ACHA DII National Championships for the first time since reaching the finals in 2006. That was the year the LaHaye Ice Center opened, prompting Liberty to launch a Division I team the following season.
Kurtz, who serves as a youth pastor in Maryland and will be bringing members of his church to College For A Weekend, was on the Flames' DII staff from 1997 to 2002, coaching current DI head coach Kirk Handy as a player before working with him as a coach. He coached against current DII head coach Chris Lowes in 2007, Lowes' first year at the helm, when Kurtz was head coach at the University of North Carolina.
He said Lynchburg is a natural fit and more neutral host site for the Southeast Regional Tournament.
"The past few years, it's been in the New Jersey/Philadelphia area," Kurtz said. "The Southeast region is spread out, with schools as far north as New York City and as far south as Florida and all the way over in Ohio and Kentucky."
LaHaye Ice Center's location on campus, and ownership by Liberty, is an ideal situation.
"I like fact they control the rink, and we're not going to be fighting with other outside interests to get ice time," Kurtz said. "It's a first-class facility and the people that run it bend over backwards to make it happen. They set the schedule. It's not a public rink. We're not just another vendor."
Liberty does pack plenty of action into the ice time at LaHaye, as the only school in the nation with five ACHA hockey teams, one at each level — DI, II, and III men and DI and II women — as well as figure skating and synchronized skating teams.
The past two years, Liberty's DIII men's team has hosted the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference's divisional tournaments at LaHaye.
The first of five ACHA DII regional rankings, which determine the regional qualifiers, will be released at the end of October. There will be two more polls in the fall and two in spring, with the top two teams in the final rankings receiving automatic bids to the ACHA DII Nationals Championships, hosted by Northeastern University in Boston. The third- through 10th-ranked teams will compete in the Southeast Regional Tournament at LaHaye, vying for the last two national berths.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer