The Olentangy Liberty High School hockey team is preparing to play for a district championship without the coach who played an instrumental role in helping it become one of central Ohio’s top programs.

Athletics director Darin Meeker confirmed Feb. 27 that Jack Hoogeveen has resigned. He had been the Patriots’ head coach since the program’s inception in 2007-08.

Kevin Alexander, who began serving as co-coach with the 71-year-old Hoogeveen at the beginning of this season, now is serving as head coach.

At 6 p.m. March 3, Liberty will face Dublin Jerome for the district title at OhioHealth Ice Haus.

“I’ve had the pleasure and high honor of coaching some of the finest student-athletes in central Ohio, maybe the state, maybe the country,” Hoogeveen said in an e-mail. “These kids are still battling for me, but I’ve had to put the bat down and the umpire has made (the) decision. I will remember the honorable coaches with whom we battled.”

Hoogeveen played collegiately at Bowling Green in the early 1970s, spent time as a player and coach in the Mid-American Hockey League and also worked with Ohio State’s hockey program for 12 years as a skating development coach.

He then became Gahanna’s coach for its first five seasons as a varsity team, from 2002-03 through 2006-07, before taking over at Liberty.

The Patriots made runs to the state tournament in 2011, 2013 and last season.

Hoogeveen led Liberty to a 259-113-21 mark and has 297 career victories.

The Patriots are 28-6-3 this season.

“It’s been my honor to coach with him and be his friend,” said Alexander, who began serving as head coach for Liberty’s 3-1 district quarterfinal victory over Cincinnati St. Xavier on Feb. 24 and then coached in a 5-4 district semifinal win over Cincinnati Moeller on Feb. 25.

“One of my mantras is ‘one shift at a time,’ ” Hoogeveen said. “The record perhaps speaks for itself, but this would not have been possible without the talent and dedication of the coaches who surrounded me. … What I will never forget is the outpouring of support I’ve received since the announcement (of my resignation). Former players, parents and our current group have shown so much love and caring. I’m overwhelmed.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek