It was a record-setting year for Liberty University’s ice hockey teams.
Liberty is already known for having the only hockey program in the nation with teams competing in all five divisions of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) — Division I, II, and III men and Division I and II women. This winter, the program sent a record three of those teams to national tournaments.
The Division I women’s team placed third at nationals following its runner-up showing last year. Seeded seventh in the final ACHA DI poll, the Lady Flames (17-11-5) narrowly made it into the eight-team national field. But they proved they belonged, going 2-2-1 March 13-16 at the Fred Rust Arena in Newark, Del., after nearly upsetting second-seeded University of Massachusetts in the first round. In the third-place final against University of Rhode Island, junior goalie Chantal Lischynski, who was named to the ACHA DI All-Tournament first team, made 26 saves and gave up only one goal for the second straight game. Senior defenseman Courtney Fischer and sophomore forward Carrie Jickling were selected to the All-Tournament second team.
The Division I men’s team qualified for nationals for the seventh time in the eight seasons since moving up from Division II in 2006. Following its most successful regular season, in which it rose as high as No. 3 in the ACHA computer rankings, the team was eliminated in the second round of its national tournament in Newark, Del., by the Naval Academy in a 4-3 upset in sudden-death overtime. Liberty senior forward Andrew McCombe and defenseman Jackson Kuhn were selected to play in the ACHA DI All-Star Game held March 22 near Detroit.
Liberty’s DII men’s team secured its first trip to the national tournament, held at the New England Sports Center near Boston, Mass., by defeating the University of Delaware, 4-1, and Miami (Ohio) University, 4-1, in the Southeast Region Tournament, which was held Feb. 22-23 at Liberty’s LaHaye Ice Center. The Flames came excruciatingly close to advancing to the Final Four with a 3-2 overtime upset of top-seeded Grand Valley State University and a 6-2 rout of Northern Arizona University before being eliminated in the third round of pool play with a 6-2 loss to the University of New Hampshire.