Having been bumped from the Southeast Regional Tournament by Kentucky last season, the coaches of Liberty's DII team made sure the 2010-11 schedule included a slew of tough opponents.
Head coach Chris Lowes figures his Flames will benefit in two ways: 1.) Strong performances against the marquee names on the schedule will enhance Liberty 's chances for a high enough ranking to make the regional field. 2.) Competitive games weekend after weekend will strengthen his team for the high-caliber clubs it will face in the regional.
"Last year we made the regional with a fairly light schedule. It didn't leave much room for error," said Lowes, whose club joined the newly formed Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association's new D2 Southern Division during the offseason. "This year we wanted more opportunities to impress the ranking committee and to make our players battle tested. The loss to Kentucky was our first must-win game."
The Flames's schedule is dotted with opponents that figure to give Liberty a fight. They'll face three or four of them at the ACHA Showcase, Oct. 15-17 in Youngstown, Ohio. They'll meet several more at Liberty 's own MACHA showcase, where Rider and Rowan from MACHA's Northern Division and East Carolina and Liberty from the Southern will go at it.
Then there are the rivalry dates. "Virginia Tech is at the top of the list," said Lowes. "We've been battling from our days in the ACCHL. Last year we played twice and both went to a shootout. Kennesaw State is right there with them." The Flames will meet Kennesaw State and Virginia Tech, both MACHA-Southern Clubs, three and two times, respectively.
Lowes views the Flames' home game with KSU on Oct. 22 as the beginning of a challenging stretch in the schedule. "We have a run of pretty strong games heading into the semester break," he said.
Preparing to execute the schedule won't be a problem. The Flames have their own ice rink on their Lynchburg, Va., campus. They've been practicing for two weeks and Lowes said he's just about completed the selection process for the 2010-11 squad. The Flames will meet a junior team from Richmond and will play both the Liberty DI and III teams prior to their opener Sept. 18 vs. North Carolina State.
Sept. 18, vs. North Carolina State (ACCHL)
Sept. 19, vs. North Carolina State (ACCHL)
Sept. 24, vs. Christopher Newport (BRHC-Colonial)
Sept. 25, vs. North Carolina-Wilmington (BRHC-Carolina)
Oct. 1, vs. Georgetown (ACCHL)
Oct. 8, Life (MACHA-Southern Division)
Oct. 9, Life (MACHA-Southern Division)
Oct. 15-17, ACHA Showcase in Youngstown, Ohio
Oct. 22, vs. Kennesaw State (MACHA-Southern Division)
Oct. 23, vs. Maryland-Baltimore County (MACHA-Northern Division)
Oct. 29-31, Liberty Showcase (Rider, Rowan and East Carolina (all MACHA teams)
Nov. 6, vs. Virginia Tech (MACHA-Southern Division)
Nov. 12, at Kennesaw State (MACHA-Southern Division)
Nov. 13, at Kennesaw State (MACHA-Southern Division)
Nov. 14, at Life (MACHA-Southern Division)
Nov. 19, vs. Maryland (DII)
Nov. 20, vs. Temple (MACHA-Northern Division)
Jan. 14, vs. Penn State (MACHA-Northern Division)
Jan. 15, vs. Richmond (BRHC-Colonial)
Jan. 16, vs. Eastern Carolina (MACHA-Southern Division)
Jan. 21, vs. Eastern Kentucky (DII)
Jan. 22, vs. Eastern Kentucky (DII)
Jan. 23, at Virginia Tech (MACHA-Southern Division)
Feb. 4, at Maryland (DII)
Feb. 5, at Georgetown (ACCHL)
Feb. 18-20, MACHA playoffs