Mel Stramm ® Sports Editor |
For the 2021-22 season, Maverick men’s hockey will leave the Wester Collegiate Hockey Association and become a part of a forgotten conference, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
College hockey’s conferences got realigned in 2013 when the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin left to play in the Big 10 conference. Around the same time, several WCHA and CCHA schools formed a new conference, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The leftovers, then, from the WCHA and CCHA joined to form the modern WCHA.
Then last year seven WCHA schools announced their own exit from the conference, saying they would form a new one called the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
According to Athletics consultant Morris Kurtz, the reason why seven of 10 WCHA members made the switch was the chance to rebrand a conference with rich tradition. Also, better regional alignment and the opportunity to form natural rivalries with schools closer to one another played a major role in their decision.
As of right now, the CCHA will include Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, Northern Michigan, and the latest addition to the D-I hockey division, the University of St. Thomas.
Certainly, some old rivalries for MSU as well as some new faces that will have to hold up against the powerhouse that coach Mike Hastings has built over the last years.
A team to keep an eye on particularly will be St. Thomas as it will be a big jump for the private university. The Tommies will be moving up from Division III to Division I with only one year to prepare. The program definitely has its work cut out for it but being located in the epicenter of hockey might be an advantage in terms of bringing in new talent and curating player development.
While the transition will be challenging, other programs such as Arizona or Penn State made this transition rather successfully in the past.
As the CCHA is ready to take off, the WCHA is clearly scrambling to stay afloat. The three teams initially remaining in the conference were Alabama Huntsville, Alaska Fairbanks, and Alaska Anchorage.
Unfortunately for the WCHA, Alaska Anchorage recently announced the discontinuation of its hockey program due to a lack of funds. This leaves just two teams remaining in the conference that once boasted 10 members.
The new conference is planned to start in October of 2021, which leaves about a year for the final development of the CCHA.
Header photo: Minnesota State forward Julian Napravnik (15) during a game against Bowling Green State University at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center Nov. 2, 2019 in Mankato, Minn. (File photo)