WCHA adds Alabama-Huntsville to fold for next season

UAH logo

This is great news for those who have been worried about Alabama-Huntsville’s future and for WCHA fans. UAH should be a competitive program soon.

From the WCHA …

MADISON, Wis. – The Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s membership voted today (January 17) to admit the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) as a full-time men’s conference member. The vote of approval was taken after UAH submitted an application for membership and made a formal presentation to a WCHA group of member-team Presidents and Athletic Directors at a meeting held in conjunction with the NCAA Convention in Dallas, Tex.
The addition of University of Alabama in Huntsville into college hockey’s most historic and successful conference will bring future men’s league membership to 10 teams. Their membership will be effective as soon as 2013-14.
WCHA men’s membership in 2013-14 currently consists of University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Bemidji State University, Bowling Green State University, Ferris State University, Lake Superior State University, Michigan Technological University, Minnesota State University, Mankato and Northern Michigan University.
In issuing a joint statement on behalf of the Association, Dr. Richard Davenport, President of Minnesota State University, Mankato and Chair of the WCHA President’s Group, and Bruce McLeod, Commissioner of the WCHA, said “The WCHA is delighted to have reached in principle an agreement to officially welcome University of Alabama in Huntsville into the Association family as a full-time men’s member. This is a significant day for the Chargers, the community of Huntsville, the conference itself, and college hockey in general. Growing the game and assisting developing programs however possible has always been a charge of the WCHA and this is another positive evolution in our history.
“Each of our member institutions are 100% committed to keeping the WCHA among the premier conferences in all of collegiate athletics and our respective ice hockey programs both strong and vibrant. The University of Alabama in Huntsville is a dynamic, top-quality institution with an excellent academic and athletic reputation and without question the Chargers are going to be a great fit and a successful, contributing member. 
“Just as the entire UAH campus and the Huntsville community are exhilarated to now have a welcoming home for their men’s hockey program, the WCHA is also extremely proud and gratified to be providing that home.”
Said University of Alabama in Huntsville President Robert Altenkirch, “We’re pleased that our ice hockey team is going to have the opportunity to compete and grow in a NCAA Division 1 conference. We believe that our affiliation with the Western Collegiate Hockey Association will be a tremendous boost to our recruiting, scheduling and our ability to be competitive on the ice.
“We want to thank the WCHA and its member institutions for their confidence in allowing us to be a part of their conference. Their affirmative vote will invigorate our ability to maintain our great hockey tradition.”
UAH Director of Athletics Dr. E.J. Brophy said, “All athletic programs experience special defining moments, and our hockey program’s acceptance today into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is certainly one of those moments. The WCHA is a preeminent hockey conference in America, and I know that our student-athletes, coaches, fans, friends, alums and the people of Huntsville are ecstatic and proud of this giant step for our ice hockey program.
“The last time we were in a conference, we won the conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament, which will be our immediate and ambitious goal when we begin play in the WCHA. It is a banner day for the Chargers.”

Friday reading: Holmstrom, WCHA column, predictions, Kerdiles

HolmstromColorado Springs native Ben Holmstrom will miss much of the season with a knee injury.

Here is this week’s WCHA column from USCHO and my and Tyler’s predictions.

CC hopes the road proves kinder than its recent homestand.

Puckato’s Morning Skate provides links to previews from around the league.

Wisconsin 5, Alabama-Huntsville 0

MADISON — Junior forward Michael Mersch and freshman forward Nic Kerdiles each scored two goals to lead Wisconsin to a 5-0 victory against Alabama-Huntsville on Thursday night at Kohl Center. It was Kerdiles’ first college scores after a tough offseason.

More Thursday reading: Atlantic expansion, CLASS award finalists, Notre Dame, Fairbanks punishment, ECAC parity, CCHA update

Four schools, including Alabama-Huntsville, are under consideration to fill the 12th Atlantic Hockey Association spot being vacated by UConn when it leaves for Hockey East in summer 2014. Judging from the article, UAH is still on the outside looking in because of geography.

All four look like strong candidates including one strong D3 and D1 start-ups at Rhode Island and Navy.

Air Force’s Stephen Carew is one of the 20 Lowe’s CLASS award finalists.

It looks like Notre Dame will fit in very well in Hockey East.

The NCAA took scholarships away from Alaska-Fairbanks.

The ECAC has more parity than in years past.

Here is a look at the progress made at Michigan State.

WCHA roundup: Lucia records No. 600; Denver routs Air Force

No. 1 Minnesota 3, Michigan Tech 2

HOUGHTON — Sophomore forward Seth Ambroz scored twice to help Don Lucie secure his 600th career win as Minnesota skated to a 3-2 victory against Michigan Tech on Saturday at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

No. 7 Denver 5, Air Force 2

DENVER — Junior forward Nick Shore registered three goals and an assist to lead Denver to a 5-2 win against Air Force on Saturday night at Magness Arena.

No. 17 Northern Michigan 2, Nebraska Omaha 1

OMAHA — Junior forward Zahn Raubenheimer scored a goal but Nebraska Omaha was defeated by Northern Michigan, 2-1, on Saturday night at CenturyLink Center.

St. Cloud State 4, Alabama-Huntsville 0

ST. CLOUD — Senior forward Drew LeBlanc and sophomore defenseman Andrew Prochno each had a goal and an assist to help St. Cloud State earn a weekend sweep with a 4-0 win against Alabama Huntsville on Saturday at National Hockey Center.

Bemidji State 5, Lake Superior State 0

BEMIDJI — Sophomore goaltender Andrew Walsh stopped 25 shots and junior forward Radoslav Illo had a goal and an assist to lead Bemidji State to a 5-0 win against Lake Superior State on Saturday night at Sanford Center.

Minnesota State 5, RPI 4 OT

MANKATO — Senior forward Eriah Hayes scored at 1:09 of overtime to lift Minnesota State to a 4-3 win against Rensselaer on Saturday night at Verizon Wireless Center.

Alaska Anchorage 6, Merrimack 3

FAIRBANKS — Sophomore forward Scott Allen scored two goals and an assist and freshman forward Blake Tatchell added two goals to lead Alaska Anchorage to a 6-3 victory against Merrimack College on Saturday night at the Brice Alaska Goal Rush in Fairbanks

Wednesday reading: Honors, Crabb, Hillen, DU, UND, schedule

Two future NCHC foes garnered weekly CCHA honors.

The recent NHL proposal has desperate NHL bloggers excited enough to post depth charts, including former Tigers Joey Crabb, pictured, and  Jack Hillen in Washington.

Denver has a new  director of media relations after Eric Bacher left for the assistant athletics director for public relations at Virginia. His replacement is Nicole Bostel, who was DU’s associate director of media relations. Congratulations to Nicole on the promotion.

Here is an injury update for shorthanded North Dakota.

This Week in the WCHA …

Games for Thursday, Oct. 18: Minnesota Duluth at Notre Dame (NC), 7:35 pm ET.

Games for Friday, Oct. 19: Minnesota at Michigan Tech (WCHA), 7:07 pm ET; Minnesota Duluth at Notre Dame (NC), 7:35 pm ET; Lake Superior at Bemidji State (NC), 7:37 pm CT; Rensselaer at Minnesota State (NC), 7:37 pm CT; Alabama-Huntsville at St. Cloud State (NC), 7:37 pm CT; Northern Michigan at Nebraska Omaha (NC), 7:37 pm CT; Colorado College at Air Force (NC), 7:05 pm MT; * North Dakota vs Alaska Anchorage (NC), 5:05 pm AT; UMass Lowell at Denver (NC), 7:37 pm MT. * Alaska Goal Rush (Fairbanks, AK).

Games for Saturday, Oct. 20: Minnesota at Michigan Tech (WCHA), 7:07 pm ET; * Merrimack vs Alaska Anchorage (NC), 4:05 pm AT; Lake Superior at Bemidji State (NC), 7:07 pm CT; Rensselaer at Minnesota State (NC), 7:07 pm CT; Alabama-Huntsville at St. Cloud State (NC), 7:07 pm CT; Northern Michigan at Nebraska Omaha (NC), 7:07 pm CT; UMass Lowell at Colorado College (NC), 7:07 pm MT; Air Force at Denver (NC), 7:07 pm MT; * North Dakota at Alaska (NC), 7:05 pm AT. * Alaska Goal Rush (Fairbanks, AK).

More Friday reading: WCHA previews, weekend picks, Alabama-Huntsville’s hopes, weekend schedule

Here is the conference season preview I wrote along with colleague Tyler Buckentine, who is based in Minnesota.

Michigan Tech lost 4-2 at Lake Superior State on Thursday, something Tyler and I both predicted. We also picked MTU to win at home Saturday night against the Lakers. Here are the rest of the weekend’s picks.

Alabama-Huntsville needs to show it can compete in the WCHA and fill its arena with WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod coming South to watch Minnesota State at the Chargers this weekend.

Here are the team season previews we wrote: Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Colorado College, Denver;

Michigan Tech, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State;

Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud State and Wisconsin.

Here is this weekend’s schedule, courtesy of the WCHA. Michigan Tech lost at LSSU 4-2 Thursday night.

Fri
10/12/12
Michigan State
at Minnesota
6:07 p.m. CT
Fri
10/12/12
St. Cloud State
at New Hampshire
7:30 p.m. ET
Fri
10/12/12
Minnesota State
at Alab-Huntsville
7:00 p.m. CT
Fri
10/12/12
Wisconsin
vs Northern Michigan
7:05 p.m. CT
Fri
10/12/12
Ohio State
at Minnesota Duluth
7:07 p.m. CT
Fri
10/12/12
USA Under-18 Team
at North Dakota
7:37 p.m. CT
Fri
10/12/12
Clarkson
at Colorado College
7:37 p.m. MT
Fri
10/12/12
Army
vs Nebraska Omaha
9:00 p.m. CT
Fri
10/12/12
Canisius
at Alaska Anchorage
8:07 p.m. AT
Sat
10/13/12
Notre Dm/Maine
vs Nebraska Omaha
3:30/6:30 p.m. CT
Sat
10/13/12
St. Cloud State
at New Hampshire
7:00 p.m. ET
Sat
10/13/12
Lake Superior
at Michigan Tech
7:07 p.m. ET
Sat
10/13/12
Minnesota State
at Alab-Huntsville
7:00 p.m. CT
Sat
10/13/12
Wisconsin
vs Northern Michigan
7:05 p.m. CT
Sat
10/13/12
Ohio State
at Minnesota Duluth
7:07 p.m. CT
Sat
10/13/12
USA Under-18 Team
at Bemidji State
7:07 p.m. CT
Sat
10/13/12
Clarkson
at Colorado College
7:07 p.m. MT
Sat
10/13/12
Michigan State
at Minnesota
8:07 p.m. CT
Sat
10/13/12
Air Force
at Alaska Anchorage
7:07 p.m. AT

Wednesday reading: Huntsville, Gophers, PSU, Niagara

Alabama-Huntsville announced its 2012-13 schedule and it is very thin after Jan. 1 because everyone else is playing conference games.

Minnesota defensive defenseman Seth Helgeson, pictured, is profiled here as is Penn State’s Taylor Holmstrom, a former AHA Rookie of the Year for Mercyhurst who spent last season on the Nittany Lions’ club team. Air Force foe Niagara also has a player featured.

Thursday reading: NCHC, Gophers, UND, rules, expansion, UAH

Here is the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference web site. Here is a Denver Post profile of commissioner Jim Scherr.

Zach Budish will serve as Minnesota’s captain next season.

The NCAA announced rule changes for next season. Puckato explains here.

The roster for the 2012 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Sept. 29 was announced. No future Tigers made the list (several players remain uncommitted) but a number of WCHA and future National Collegiate Hockey Conference players did.

Goon’s World ran across a graphic that shows the number of championships won by Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. UND fans will enjoy it.

Former UNO player Jayson Megna signed with Pittsburgh. He announced he would leave Omaha last  Friday.

Bleacher Report’s Al Daniels put some thought into this blog post, although it is all wishful thinking or conjecture. He names Cincinnati, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, Rhode Island, and Syracuse as five schools that would be good expansion sites for college hockey.

Illinois and Indiana have been mentioned as possible Big 10 additions by others but remember, for every men’s program, a women’s team must be added, with the exception of Syracuse (CHA). I suspect the next expansion will have to follow the Penn State model —  hockey-loving booster willing to donate $90-100 million to fund both genders’ programs and build an arena.

Other programs I have read or heard mentioned include Arizona State, Stanford, Vanderbilt and St. Louis. Anyone heard of others?

Regardless, it looks like Division I will lose a program soon after it gains Penn State. There was talk before Paul Kelly left College Hockey Inc. about a travel exemption for road games at Alabama-Huntsville (like the two Alaska schools) to give that program a fighting chance at drawing opponents for home games. Even that may not be enough.

The 2012-13 schedule remains unannounced but sources indicate only Minnesota State-Mankato, USA U-18 and two Division III schools are scheduled to play in Huntsville so far. Without some home ticket revenue, the Chargers will lose too much money to survive. The new-look WCHA, which had some members criticize the NCHC for leaving because of money and ignoring ” the good of the sport,” should move forward on admitting the program as soon as possible.

Air Force announces 2012-13 schedule

From AFA sports information …

USAFA, Colo. – The Air Force hockey team opens the 2012-13 season with an exhibition game against the University of British Columbia on Monday, Oct. 8, at 6:05 p.m. at the Cadet Ice Arena. The Falcons then travel to Anchorage, Alaska for the Kendall Hockey Classic, Oct. 12-13, when the Falcons face Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage. Air Force opens the regular-season home schedule against cross-town rival Colorado College, Friday, Oct. 19, at 7:05 p.m. AFA then travels to the University of Denver, Saturday, Oct. 20, at 7:05 p.m. AFA opens Atlantic Hockey Association play on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 7:05 p.m. at Canisius.

Air Force is coming off of its fifth AHA championship in the last six years. The Falcons won the 2012 AHA Tournament with a 4-0 win over RIT in the championship game. The Falcons’ season ended with a 2-0 loss to top-seeded, and eventual national champion, Boston College in the NCAA Northeast Regional.

The top two scorers from last season (seniors Kyle DeLaurell and John Kruse) both return. DeLaurell led the team with 23 assists and 38 points. Kruse led the team with 16 goals and had 30 points.

Four of the top five scorers return as sophomores Cole Gunner and Chad Demers are back after stellar freshman seasons. Gunner finished the season with 28 points while Demers had 24. Junior defenseman Adam McKenzie is the top returning blueliner with 18 points (2-6-18).

Junior goaltender Jason Torf returns after earning AHA Tournament MVP honors last season. After returning from an injury, Torf started the final 15 games and finished among the top 10 in the nation in goal-against average and saves percentage. Torf was fourth in the nation in GAA with a 1.73 goals-against average and was ninth in saves percentage with a .929.

Air Force Hockey – 2012-13 Schedule

All times at site
Day Date    Time   Opponent                                                       Site
Mon. Oct. 8 6:05 UNIV. OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (EXH) USAFA, CO
Fri. Oct. 12 5:07 vs. Alaska-Fairbanks# Anchorage, AK
Sat. Oct. 13 7:07 at Alaska-Anchorage# Anchorage, AK
Fri. Oct. 19 7:05 COLORADO COLLEGE USAFA, CO
Sat. Oct. 20 7:05 at Denver Denver, CO
Thur. Oct. 25 7:05 at Canisius* Buffalo, NY
Sat. Oct. 27 7:05 at Robert Morris* Pittsburgh, PA
Fri. Nov. 2 7:05 HOLY CROSS* USAFA, CO
Sat. Nov. 3 7:05 HOLY CROSS* USAFA, CO
Fri. Nov. 9 7:30 at Penn State University Park, PA
Sat. Nov. 10 7:30 at Penn State University Park, PA
Fri. Nov. 23 7:05 at UConn* Storrs, CT
Sat. Nov. 24 7:05 at UConn* Storrs, CT
Fri. Nov. 30 7:05 MERCYHURST* USAFA, CO
Sun. Dec. 2 6:05 RIT* USAFA, CO
Fri. Dec. 7 7:05 at Bentley* Waltham, MA
Sat. Dec. 8 7:05 at Bentley* Waltham, MA
Sat.-Sun Dec. 29-30 TBA at Mariucci Classic Minneapolis, MN
(Minnesota, Alabama-Huntsville, Boston College and Air Force)
Sat. Jan. 5 7:05 at Niagara* Niagara Falls, NY
Fri. Jan. 11 7:05 ARMY* USAFA, CO
Sat. Jan. 12 7:05 ARMY* USAFA, CO
Sat. Jan. 19 4:05 at Sacred Heart* Bridgeport, CT
Sun. Jan. 20 12:05 at Sacred Heart* Bridgeport, CT
Fri. Jan. 25 7:05 ROBERT MORRIS* USAFA, CO
Sat. Jan. 26 7:05 ROBERT MORRIS* USAFA, CO
Fri. Feb. 1 7:05 AIC* USAFA, CO
Sat. Feb. 2 7:05 AIC* USAFA, CO
Fri. Feb. 8 7:05 at Mercyhurst* Erie, PA
Sat. Feb. 9 7:05 at Mercyhurst* Erie, PA
Fri. Feb. 15 7:05 CANISIUS* USAFA, CO
Sat. Feb. 16 7:05 CANISIUS* USAFA, CO
Fri. Feb. 22 7:05 at RIT* Rochester, NY
Sat. Feb. 23 7:05 at RIT* Rochester, NY
Fri. Mar. 1 7:05 NIAGARA* USAFA, CO
Sat. Mar. 2 7:05 NIAGARA* USAFA, CO
Fri.-Sun. Mar. 8-10 TBA AHA First Round (Best of Three) TBA
Fri.-Sun. Mar. 15-17 TBA AHA Quarterfinals (Best of Three) TBA
Fri.-Sat. Mar. 22-23 TBA AHA Final Four Rochester, NY
Fri.-Sun. Mar. 29-31 TBA NCAA Regionals TBA
(Grand Rapids, MI; Manchester, NH; Providence, RI; Toledo, OH)

Weekend reading: Interesting 2014 WCHA playoff format, North Dakota nickname, Jaden and Mandi Schwartz, Parise, Big 10

The WCHA announced its nine-team playoff format which includes Anchorage and Fairbanks playing in a best-of-three first-round series every time unless one is the No. 1 seed.

It is clearly a cost-cutting measure so the league does not have to pay for two teams’ round trips to or from Alaska, but could make for some weird playoff scenarios in March 2014.

Here are more details from the Mankato beat writer and a reaction from the UND reporter.

Also, there was no word about any move toward adding Alabama Huntsville. Too bad. There is a lot of unfinished business ahead for the new-look WCHA. There was no word on the postseason venue either.

The state Board of Higher Education has directed the University of North Dakota to retire its Fighting Sioux nickname. State residents voted overwhelmingly earlier this week to uphold the Legislature’s repeal of a state law requiring the school to use the nickname. The moniker that the NCAA finds offensive had been brought out of retirement for a second time while the measure was decided.

Board President Grant Shaft, of Grand Forks, says there’s not much more that can be said about the issue that hasn’t been said already. UND will be asked to report its progress at a later date.

Former Tiger Jaden Schwartz will get to see the CHL’s Memorial Cup firsthand this week.

One of Mandi Schwartz‘s former teammates is a finalist for a league award in her honor.

The Minnesota Wild keep being mentioned as the possible new homes for free agents Ryan Sutter and Zach Parise. This may be a case of wishful thinking judging from this NHL.com interview by Parise.

Here is a feature on UNO recruit Brian Cooper of Anchorage.

The Big Ten paid out $24,6 million to its member schools.

The Fargo arena is in financial trouble. The Dartmouth women add an assistant.

Division III New England ran afoul of the NCAA’s financial aid rules. UMass has lost its radio home.

The dream is one step closer to fruition: the Penn State club hockey web site shut down voluntarily since the varsity program is handled by the university. Follow TYT for PSU updates.

Here is a look at the Mercyhurst program.