The whirlwind summer that saw a bunch of realignment in college hockey has finally come to an end, and now college hockey fans can worry about watching actual games as the season is once again upon us. Most college hockey teams have already started their captain’s practices, and college hockey coaches are allowed by NCAA rules to practice for two hours each week with their teams until October 1st, 2011.
The college hockey season will officially kick off with their exhibition games during the first weekend of October. The following weekend all 12 WCHA teams WCHA teams will kick off their non-conference and preseason tourney games. Click here for the composite WCHA 2011-12 season schedule…
Realignment Almost Set?
As mentioned in the preceding paragraph; this past summer has been a whirlwind for college hockey fans of the WCHA, with the defections of teams to the B1G (Wisconsin, Minnesota) and the newly-formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference (Colorado College, Denver University, University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Nebraska Omaha and University of North Dakota), the WCHA in its present form will change after the 2012-13 season.
Starting in 2013-14 the WCHA will consist of the following teams: University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Bemidji State University, Ferris State University, Lake Superior State University, Michigan Tech University, Minnesota State University Mankato, Northern Michigan University, and Saint Cloud State University. Two other schools have been given invitations to join the WCHA from the CCHA – Western Michigan University and Bowling Green State University – but neither school has accepted nor declined the invitation at this point. The WCHA would like to add WMU and BGSU as members to the WCHA because without either school, none of the schools in the WCHA are Division I in any other sport besides hockey.
Teams Bolting for Super-Conferences
We already have an idea what the new WCHA will look like; there may be an addition or subtraction in the future. Based on the moves that have taken place this summer, it also appears that there will no longer be a CCHA. While realignment is almost over for the WCHA there are still a few moves yet to be played out. While holding up the show for most of the summer, Notre Dame has yet to pick a home for its college hockey team; there have been rumblings that the Fighting Irish are close to selecting a conference. Stay with me now; there are three or four scenarios in play for them right now, Notre Dame could join the NCHC, Hockey East, go independent or join the Big Ten. The later scenario has surfaced in the last week or so.
Big Ten Driving Realignment
Due to a very generous donation from PSU alumnus Terry Pegula; Penn State University will now have a college hockey team to start the 2012-13 college hockey season. Peulla opened his rather large wallet and wrote PennState a check for $88 million to help the Nittany Lions build Pegula Ice arena. That donation rocked the college hockey world, now that the Big Ten “will have” six teams that play college hockey, they are required by conference rules to have a B1G hockey conference. The addition of one college hockey team set the ball in motion for a very chaotic summer. The Big Ten Schools that used to be in both the WCHA and the CCHA are now going to form the Big Ten Hockey Conference.
Not to be out done and in response to the Big Ten hockey conference formation; Miami University from the CCHA decided to join North Dakota, Denver University, Colorado College, and University of Nebraska Omaha to form the NCHC. The NCHC schools have been trying to lure Notre Dame to become a member of the six team super conference. WMU is also said to be very interested in joining the NCHC, and they have spent the summer trying to convince the NCHC that they would be a worthy suitor in the NCHC. If WMU is unable to join the NCHC they will probably join the WCHA. BGSU has yet to make decision but are leaning towards joining the WCHA.
There have been rumblings that if Notre Dames doesn’t join the NCHC that SCSU “might” get an invite to the NCHC but at this time they are still on the outside looking in. This move would stink with hypocrisy especially after Saint Cloud State University President Dr Earl H. Potter III said he wouldn’t join the NCHC even if his school was offered a spot in the conference. Potter has since backed off this statement.
How Will Things Shake Out?
While I don’t get a vote in the WCHA media pre-season poll, this is how I think the standings will shake out for the 2011-12 season. The top six – seven teams in the WCHA are pretty equal and could finish anywhere from first to seventh. Like last season, we could see one or both B1G schools failing to make the Final Five once again. I believe Denver, Colorado College and North Dakota are the cream of the crop in the WCHA this season. In the future, I will break down the teams to watch in the WCHA.
2. Colorado College
3. North Dakota
9. St. Cloud State
10. Bemidji State
11. Michigan Tech
12. Minnesota State