DI Flames’ third defenseman recruit will add experience, offensive ‘Bite’
Liberty University’s ACHA Division I men’s hockey team received a second commitment from a defenseman at last week’s Liberty Hockey Select Camp at the LaHaye Ice Center — Kevin Bite, who will transfer in from Johnson & Wales (R.I.) University and enroll as a junior this fall.
Like Liberty’s first Fall 2023 recruit, Martin Marnauzs, a fellow defenseman who committed to the Flames in March, Bite, 22, is a native of Latvia. Bite’s family arrived in the Atlanta area when he was 5 in 2005, a couple years before Marnauzs, 21, and his family moved to Chicago at age 6.
“Our families have been friends over the past few years and when we grew up playing hockey together, we would always travel to Chicago … and our families would always get together on those weekends,” said Bite, who followed the lead of his cousins in Latvia to pick up hockey at an early age in Atlanta.
“I went and skated a few times and just fell in love with it and I couldn’t stop playing at that point,” Bite said, noting that hockey is the only sport he has played competitively. “Hockey is pretty much my everything. If it’s not ice hockey season, it’s roller hockey season for me (in the summertime).”
He is also friends with some of the Flames’ current players, including rising senior forwards Jason Foltz, who he played with on the Atlanta Fire from 2012-13 and the TPC Thunder after that, and DJ Schwenke, who he played with for two seasons on the EHL’s New England Wolves in Laconia, N.H. They convinced him to visit Liberty for the first time last week.
“I’ve known a few of the guys for many years now and I’ve heard nothing but good things about Liberty,” Bite said. “When they told me that there’s a Christian university like this where you can not only deepen your faith, but play a high level of hockey, that is super rare, something I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. It sparked my interest, and I was super interested in what they have to offer here and that’s why I came to camp to see for myself.”
He said the Flames’ coaching staff and returning players were extremely welcoming upon his arrival.
“I’ve loved how open they’ve been with me and how inviting they’ve been to everything and just how, as soon as you come here, they make you feel a part of everything,” Bite said. “Seeing what Liberty has to offer … just the atmosphere that is here, the community that is here it seems like it is one big group, and it is something I would love to see in my time here and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Bite totaled 60 points in three seasons with the Wolves, netting 14 goals and distributing 46 assists.
“I’m definitely an offensive defenseman,” he said. “I like to playmake with the puck, I like to push the puck forward. I always focus on a clean breakout and then do whatever it takes to produce in the offensive zone. The past two years at Johnson & Wales, I was on the power play.”
After studying marketing at Johnson & Wales, Bite plans to pursue a BSBA in Digital Marketing and Advertising at Liberty. The son of a contractor who owns his own business, he expects to launch his career after college on solid footing, on or off the ice.
“Definitely, my No. 1 is to hopefully play pro somewhere, if not in the U.S., then in Europe,” Bite said. “But if not, then I am extremely confident that my degree here at Liberty will make a path for my career in the future.”
He believes with the returning corps of players and incoming recruits, the Flames could be title contenders next season in the ACHA.
“As much as I’ve played with all of the guys, I think that the chemistry throughout the group and the family atmosphere that’s here is extremely strong,” Bite said. “To me, winning is everything and driving the competitiveness throughout the group and making sure that everyone is on the same page and has the same goals is extremely important to me. There’s nothing less that I want than a championship for this team.”
With his experience at various levels, including serving on the leadership council his sophomore season at Johnson & Wales and as an alternate captain his last two years with the New England Wolves, Bite hopes to build on the Flames’ winning foundation to help them continue to flourish.
“I’ve had the experience of being an older kid on teams and I know what it takes maturity-wise and leadership-wise to bring in young guys and make them feel part of the family and to move everyone forward,” Bite said. “Some of the advantage that I have is I already have two years of college hockey under my belt, so I know the pace that it takes and that’s something I’m looking to bring in right away — bringing up the pace, bringing up the physicality and the effort that it takes to win college hockey games.”
He is also looking forward to traveling with the Flames to Finland over Christmas break in early 2024, as they did in 2020.
“I would love to be a part of it and I’m super excited for it,” Bite said, noting that he would also hope for a return trip to Latvia with the team, after it served there in 2013. “Hockey’s all they really have up there as far as it goes in sports. Hockey’s their world up there.”
Bite will spend some vacation time this summer to travel to Latvia for the first time in 18 years to attend one of his cousins’ weddings. But other than that, he plans to work and keep a disciplined training schedule.
“My offseason is pretty rigorous,” Bite said. “I don’t really like to take time off. As soon as I take any type of time off, I feel a little bit weird inside. As soon as I’m back home, it’s kind of in the gym every day and playing either roller hockey or getting on the ice as much as I can.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer