Flames open ACHA DII regular season this weekend at Rowan
Liberty University’s ACHA Division II men’s hockey team, which opened its 2021-22 season with a shootout loss to Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s DI squad on Saturday afternoon at the LaHaye Ice Center, will begin ACHA DII play this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at Mid-Atlantic College Hockey (MACH) rival Rowan.
After this semester’s tryouts, the Flames have reloaded a team that advanced to the ACHA DII National Championships “Frozen Four” in Bismarck, N.D., last April.
“Getting to the semifinal game, we had a great run, a great group of guys,” fifth-year Head Coach Ben Hughes said. “This year, we have 11 new players … so we’re most focused on the culture in the locker room and what’s going on there, to continue to build off of the success, but also the attitude of the culture and the environment we’ve been trying to build the last four or five years.”
Freshman forward Josh Harrell is one of those newcomers and he believes the team has bonded quickly, setting a solid foundation for future success.
“I think everyone’s really on the same page,” Harrell said. “We have some unfinished business here. This team made a really good run last year in the national championships, so I think everyone’s looking forward to (nationals) and taking it day by day, getting better and working hard in practice and in the gym. I’m really looking forward to good competition and really competitive games and high-level hockey … and building off of last year’s success.”
“Everyone’s super excited to get back,” senior forward Darren Carter added. “We had a great offseason. Just going forward, everyone knows our expectations. Our goal is to get back to the MACH playoffs and … being able to build some momentum going into nationals will be really good for us. But we’re going to try to take one day at a time, one game at a time, and not lose focus along the way.”
The regular-season competition will be even stronger than last season’s, when the Flames finished 13-9-3, including 0-3-2 against the University of Mary, the team that ousted them in the national semifinals, 2-2 against Florida Gulf Coast University, and 2-1-1 against North Carolina State.
“Every day, our goal’s to get better and we have a full slate of games, a strong schedule, playing a lot of good teams, a lot of top teams, and that really helps our goal of getting better today,” senior forward Tim Doe said. “We’re going to see Penn State again this year, we’re going to see some of those good New Jersey teams and Delaware and all of them, so we’re excited to be back to it.”
“You just look at the month of October and the games that we’re playing, let alone opening up on the road in New Jersey,” Hughes said. “There’s a lot of great games and competition right away, so we’re excited. At the end of the day, every guy in that locker room wants to play against the best. They want to be the best, they want to play against the best, so having that competitive edge or attitude on our team is really important to us. We want to make sure no matter who we are playing, we have that competitive mindset.”
Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media