Having finished last season ranked No. 3 in the ACHA DIII South Region, the Frozen Tide of Alabama is aiming higher in 2012-13.
Bama hopes to supplant Florida Gulf Coast as No. 1, and assistant coach David Noble believes the team has a schedule it can soar with.
“We really wanted to build a schedule that gives us a chance to be standing at the top,” said Noble. “I think we have it . . . We think this could be our year.”
The Frozen Tide skated to a 20-12-1 record and its first ACHA DIII National Tournament berth last season, overcoming the grief of burying a teammate just days before training camp. David Mosier, one of Bama’s leading scorers in 2010-11, died suddenly in August of natural causes.
More competitive with each season, the Tide will play a 31-game schedule in 2012-13 that is laden with high-profile teams. Twenty of the games are against squads that were ranked at the end of last season.
Alabama will play five games with last season’s top two DIII teams, FGCU and No. 2 Central Florida.
Three of those games – one with FGCU and two with UCF in February — could determine which teams finish first and second in the final ranking and earn automatic berths in the DIII National tournament.
Among first-time foes appearing on Bama’s schedule are DII Kentucky (ranked 12th in the Southeast Region), Grand Valley State (13th in the DIII North Region) and Davenport (No. 4) of the tough Michigan Collegiate Hockey Conference, and second-year Miami (Florida).
Bama will meet GVSU twice, once in Michigan and again in Pelham, Ala. The Tide was swept during a four-game trip to Michigan last season.
This time Alabama will be joined in Michigan by Ole Miss and South Florida, with the Tide facing Michigan State (No. 6 in the DIII North), GVSU and Davenport on Oct. 26, 27 and 28, respectively.
“We really want to expand on [our national footprint],” said Noble. “We’re making two trips to south Florida, too. We’d like to have an even more diverse schedule, but the top teams are spread out so much. . .
“You’ve got to go places where you can play three teams on a weekend. That’s getting more and more difficult.
“We started [scheduling games] last October, and it was torn up and torn up again to make sure the kids get the competition they need and play the (South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference) conference schedule.”
Two of the Tide’s eight conference games will be against arch-rival Auburn in the third annual Iron Cup series, in Pelham, just outside Birmingham. The series was three games the first two seasons, with Bama winning all six handily.
Alabama will open the season Sept. 28 at Kennesaw State, which has combined last season’s DII and DIII squads into a single DIII team.
As previously announced, Alabama will meet Alabama-Huntsville, an NCAA Division II team, in an exhibition game on Oct. 6.
Sept. 28, at Kennesaw State
Oct. 5, Georgia Tech (Huntsville, Ala.)
Oct. 6, at Alabama-Huntsville (NCAA DII)
Oct. 19, at Kentucky (DII)
Oct. 20, at Tennessee
Oct. 21, at Vanderbilt
Oct. 26, at Michigan State
Oct. 27, vs. Grand Valley State (East Lansing, Mich.)
Oct. 28, vs. Davenport (East Lansing, Mich.)
Nov. 9, Florida Gulf Coast
Nov. 10, Arkansas*
Nov. 16, at Miami (Fla.)
Nov. 17, at Florida Atlantic
Nov. 18, at Central Florida
Nov. 30, at Mississippi State*
Dec. 1, at Ole Miss
Dec. 2, vs. Arkansas* (Olive Branch, Miss.)
Dec. 8, Georgia
Jan. 4, Miami (Fla.)
Jan. 5, Miami (Fla.)
Jan. 11, Auburn* (Iron Cup)
Jan. 12, Auburn* (Iron Cup)
Jan. 18, Grand Valley State
Jan. 19, South Florida
Jan. 20, Clemson
Jan. 25, Ole Miss*
Jan. 26, Ole Miss*
Jan. 31, at Florida Gulf Coast
Feb. 1, at Central Florida
Feb. 2, at Central Florida
Feb. 8, Mississippi State*
* Counts in SECHC standings