Former Liberty hockey player Josh Wagner named head coach of men’s Division 3 team
There’s a new yet familiar face for the Liberty D3 men’s hockey team. In mid-August, Josh Wagner was officially announced as the next head coach for the team.
If Wagner’s name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a name that netted 15 goals as a forward with Liberty’s D2 men’s hockey team.
Long before he laced up his skates for the Flames, Wagner grew up in the hockey town of Raleigh, North Carolina, home of the Carolina Hurricanes. He learned to know and love hockey by helping his father run practices as a child. When he grew older, Wagner started his professional hockey days in the USPHL (United States Premier Hockey League) as a forward with the U18 Syracuse Jr. Stars in 2016. He posted a goal and two assists in 22 games played.
He took the ice for the Carolina Eagles in the 2017-2018 season, netting 19 goals and 15 assists in his 42 games played, averaging nearly a point per game. After seeing no action in the 2018-2019 season, Wagner decided to bring his talents to Liberty.
He first suited up for Liberty back in 2019, when he lit the lamp three times while getting just as many assists in his 19 games played. The following season in 2020, Wagner scored an equal amount of goals, with one coming in the playoffs as well four assists in just 16 games played. In his final season on the ice for Liberty in 2021, Wagner found the back of the net 10 times — a single season high with the Flames, while adding on three assists in his 24 games played that season.
After he hung up his Flames sweater, Wagner got married to his wife Anna, helped Liberty over its summer training camps and was later blessed with his daughter, Elise, in late 2022.
But while he may have set the jersey aside, he never hung up the skates. He is now called “husband” and “dad”, but gets to add one more title to his resume — “coach,” as he steps up to lead the Flames’ D3 group. He takes over for former head coach, Josh Graham, who has been behind the bench since May of 2020 and is now an assistant coach of Liberty’s D1 women’s hockey team.
Soon after officially taking over, Wagner appointed and named his two assistant coaches, which includes Jamie Ross, former captain of the D3 team, and Brennan McDonald, a former defenseman who will focus on the defensive side of the ice. As Wagner looks at this year’s roster, there is undoubtedly a large number of newcomers, which he sees as both a challenge and opportunity.
“We have a lot of guys returning and a lot of new guys coming in, so we’re going to have a good time,” Wagner told media. “We want to have a team of hard workers that want to be here and want to honor the Lord and be Champions for Christ — just be a part of Liberty’s mission.”
Wagner has appointed senior forward Mike Williams and junior forward Ethan Dunn as the team’s spiritual leaders and are strong candidates for team captaincy — something Wagner has yet to name.
“With all of the new guys coming in, we want to see who will step up and be a leader,” Wagner said.
Plenty of former hockey players tend to enter coaching and/or team management after their time on the ice is finished, including the great Wayne Gretzky. Wagner, however, plans on being more than just a coach, with helping with the Pro-Shop, concessions and fundraising for Liberty’s student athletes this season.
As for his role on the bench, the D3 team will take the ice for the first time this season under Wagner on Sept. 29, taking on the University of South Carolina in a two-game series in Columbia, South Carolina.
Gallo is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion