Certainly, Mid-Atlantic College Hockey, of which the Ice Lions were kings last season, is as strong from top to bottom as any DII conference or collection of independent teams in the ACHA’s Southeast Region.
Stir in Ohio State (Great Midwest Hockey League), Toledo (Tri-State Collegiate Hockey League) and a few Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League teams and you have a slate of games that can get you into the regional tournament if you prevail on the scoreboard often enough.
“We figure that if we schedule our league games first, that will give us the competition we need right there,” said head coach Chris Lowes, whose Flames were ranked fifth in the Southeast Region heading into regionals.
“There are some tough games there. UMBC (Maryland-Baltimore County), Penn State will be a top-four team nationally, and there’s Virginia Tech, Temple and Maryland, which is new to the league.”
The 35-game schedule includes six games against ACCHL teams. “Once we got our league schedule done, it made sense to schedule the ACCHL because of their location,” he explained.
“The ACCHL has shown it can play. Maryland was strong last season and didn’t win the league.” (Georgetown finished first during the regular season and won the league’s post-season playoffs.)
Thirteen of the Flames’ games will be with teams that were ranked among the Southeast Region’s top 15 last season: Penn State (No. 2), UMBC (No. 3), Kennesaw State (No. 6), Virginia Tech (No. 7), Rowan (No. 9), Rider (No. 10), Temple (No. 11) and Maryland (No. 13).
To be successful against teams of that caliber again this season, Liberty will have to plug holes left by the graduation of top scorers Greg Jensen and Josh Reynolds and the defensive tandem of Michael Morrison and Daniel Merke.
Lowes will look to Brad Docksteader, Neal Henderson, Kyle Burman and John Cotton to play bigger roles offensively.
“We’re hoping we can reload,” said Lowes. “We had a good recruiting camp in the spring. We’ve got four guys committed and penciled in, and another dozen who will fight for spots.
“We had a great crop of freshmen last season. They’re going to be the heart of the team the next four years.”
The netminding corps appears to be in good hands, with returnees Trenton Macdonald and Cary Byron competing for playing time with a couple of recruits.
2012-13 Liberty DII Schedule
Sept. 7, Hampton Whalers
Sept. 8, Hampton Whalers
Sept. 14, Atlanta Knights
Sept. 5, Atlanta Knights
Sept. 22, Duke
Oct. 5, North Carolina State
Oct. 12, at East Carolina
Oct. 13, at North Carolina State
Oct. 19, Elon
Oct. 26, at Delaware
Oct. 27, at Maryland
Nov. 2, at Virginia Tech*
Nov. 3, Virginia Tech
Nov. 9, at Temple
Nov. 10, at Maryland-Baltimore County
Nov. 16, Maryland
Nov. 17, Ohio State
Nov. 30, St. Joseph’s
Dec. 1, Rider
Jan. 11, Penn State
Jan. 12, West Virginia
Jan. 18, vs. Toledo
Jan. 19, vs. Delaware
Jan. 20, vs. Kennessaw State
Jan. 25, Temple
Jan 26, Maryland-Baltimore County
Feb. 1, vs. East Carolina (MACH Showcase, Lynchburg, Va.)
Feb. 2, vs. Rowan (MACH Showcase)
Feb. 3, vs. Virginia Tech (MACH Showcase)