Flames reach all-time high with No. 3 ACHA DI ranking
December 18, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
|Flames Associate Head Coach Jeff Boettger listens to senior defenseman and captain Jackson Kuhn during the Dec. 7 win over Virginia Tech at the LaHaye Ice Center.|
The final ACHA Division I ranking of 2013 lifted Liberty University's DI men's hockey team into uncharted territory.
The Flames (20-3), who started the season at No. 13, didn't even have to take the ice to bump up one spot to No. 3 — an all-time high ranking — in the 13th computerized poll, replacing defending ACHA DI national champion Minot State (14-4-2), which dropped to No. 5.
"No. 4 was the highest we had ever been ranked," Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said. "Even though we didn't play since before the (12th) ranking, when we beat Ohio two games on the road early in the season, and then Ohio split with the No. 2 team, Robert Morris Illinois (Dec. 13-14), that moved us up."
The Bobcats (19-5-1) made the largest leap in the polls — from No. 8 to No. 4 —while undefeated Arizona State (23-0) remained at No. 1 and Robert Morris (18-3-1) stayed put at No. 2.
Liberty will travel to No. 9 Stony Brook (N.Y.), a team it split a two-game series with Nov. 15-16 at the LaHaye Ice Arena, to start the second half of its season Jan. 10-11 before visiting the top-ranked Sun Devils, Jan. 16 in Tempe, Ariz.
"Obviously, we're looking forward to the opportunity," Handy said. "At the beginning of the season, we divided our season into six parts. We have just completed part three and this (ranking) definitely puts us in good shape heading into the next stage.
"I feel we have a strong schedule and that was done intentionally to prepare us for the sixth part of the season," he added, referring to the ACHA DI national tournament, where the Flames expect to make the field for the seventh time since moving up from DII in 2006.
"What we're looking forward to is just the opportunity to battle with our guys," Handy said. "We believe in and have full confidence in our players. All season, we've worried about our team and not about the other team … about our preparation and how ready our guys are to play."