DII men’s hockey team reloaded, ready for 32-game schedule
Fresh off of last week’s tryouts, Liberty University’s ACHA Division II men’s hockey team opened practice at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday with 11 new players on its 26-man roster — which includes 15 forwards, eight defensemen, and three goalies — each with potential to make immediate and lasting impacts on the ice.
“Tryouts went great, and as always, we are excited, anxious to play and to get practices started,” Flames fifth-year Head Coach Ben Hughes said. “This is a huge year in terms of us as a team, building off the success of last year. In the bigger picture, this year will set us up for success in the years to come.”
Hughes said having nearly half of the roster made up of newcomers adds excitement and uncertainty into the equation as he and Assistant Coach Christian Garland seek to orchestrate a lineup that can compete for Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey (MACH) and the ACHA DII National Championships.
“We have 11 new players, which is great, but it poses challenges to the coaching staff and the leadership within the team,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re holding the expectations up to the level it has been in the past and raise it even higher. We can’t just rely on what we’ve done in the past because of all off the new guys. We need to be more proactive in communicating the expectations with the team, and the culture, and who we want to be as a team and as a program.”
The Flames reached the ACHA DII Final Four for the first time in four years on April 19 in Bismarck, N.D., after reaching the championship for the second and third times in program history in 2016 and 2017. They finished the 2020 season with a 30-3-1 record as MACH Tournament champions ranked No. 1 in the Southeast Region before having their shot at a first national title canceled by COVID-19.
“We couldn’t be more excited to get started,” Hughes said. “Overall, as a group, our freshmen all have a level of maturity to themselves and to their games that will allow a lot of them to be able to step in and contribute right away, so that’s exciting to see for the future of the Division II team.”
The Flames are scheduled to open their 32-game season Sept. 24-25 at MACH rival Rowan before making their debut in the LaHaye Ice Center Oct. 1-2 against traditional Southeast Region power Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). Liberty will host a three-game series against the University of Mary — the team that ended its nationals run in the semifinals — Oct. 14-16 before hosting a showcase Oct. 29-31. The Flames will also travel to showcases at Lindenwood (Nov. 19-21) and Miami (Ohio) University (Jan. 21-23) before concluding their regular season at FGCU on Feb. 4-5.
DII Flames’ 2021-22 men’s hockey roster