Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One Door Closes, Another One Opens: The New WCHA

       The most competitive conference in college hockey has changed. There is a new landscape to Division I Men's Hockey in an effort to expand the sport across the nation. Beginning in the 2013-2014 season, the modern Western Collegiate Hockey Association as we once knew it is history. With the formation of the Big Ten Hockey and the National Collegiate Hockey Conferences, all but four WCHA teams have left the conference. Minnesota and Wisconsin head for the Big Ten, while Colorado College, Denver,
The WCHA team logos, excluding Alabama-
Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, and St. Cloud State will join the NCHC. So who does that leave?
      The University of Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State University, Michigan Tech University, and Minnesota State University, Mankato will remain in the WCHA in its new formation. While in recent years these four teams have found themselves near the bottom of the WCHA, last year was different for Minnesota State. The Mavericks from Mankato will be the only team in the new WCHA that made the NCAA Tournament in 2012-2013, and also the only team to make the WCHA Final Five. Heading into this season, Ferris State and Minnesota State are the only teams to have finished in the top five of their conferences in 2013, and look to be the two front-runners. With all the new faces in the WCHA, let's take a look at the teams that will call this conference home in 2013-2014.

University of Alabama-Huntsville: The Chargers hired Coach Mike Corbett as their fourth coach in five seasons to lead them into the WCHA after being an independent team. Two seasons ago, the
program was in their final season due to budget cuts, but was able to survive with fundraising and finding a conference to play in. Finished with a record of 3-21-1 in 2012-2013, with the lone tie coming against Minnesota State at home. They are the southernmost NCAA Division I hockey team.
University of Alaska-Anchorage: The Seawolves have been a member of the WCHA since 1993, finishing last in the past two seasons. Finished 2012-2013 with a 4-25-7 record, including a WCHA record of 2-20-6. They should be more competitive in the new WCHA.
University of Alaska-Fairbanks: A new addition to the WCHA, the Nanooks come from the disbanded Central Collegiate Hockey Association. They finished last season 17-16-4 overall, and 12-13-3 in CCHA games. UAF should be one of the better teams in the conference this season.
Bemidji State University: One of four teams who remain in the WCHA after the formation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference and the NCHC. Men's hockey joined the WCHA in 2010, while women's hockey at Bemidji State has been in the WCHA women's conference since 1999. The Beavers made it to the NCAA Frozen Four in 2009, their first in the program's Division I history. Finished 11th in the WCHA last season with a 5-16-7 conference record, 6-22-8 overall.
Bowling Green State University: A once national powerhouse, the Falcons won a National Championship in 1984. However, the program has failed to make the NCAA tournament since 1990. They come to the WCHA from the CCHA, where they finished 10-15-4, 15-21-5 overall.
Ferris State at the 2012 Frozen four in
Tampa Bay, Florida 
Ferris State University: A team that will likely contend for first place in the conference, the Bulldogs
finished 16-16-5 overall last season, playing in the CCHA. While not an overly impressive record, they lost in the national title game to Boston College just two seasons ago, so there is definitely some experience still left on the roster.
Lake Superior State University: Played in the National Championship game three years in a row from 1992-1994, winning the title in 1992 and 1994 and finishing as runner-up in 1993. The Lakers also won a National Championship in 1988. Despite those successes, the program hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 1996, and finished last season with a record of 17-21-1 while placing eighth in the CCHA.
Michigan Tech University: Were part of the WCHA from 1951-1981, and have been in the conference since 1984 after spending 1981-1984 in the CCHA. Have won three National Championships with the most recent coming in 1975. Haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 1981, but have been improving since coach Mel Pearson was hired two seasons ago. Finished tenth in the WCHA last season and went 13-20-4 overall.
Minnesota State University, Mankato: Likely the early favorite to win the conference. The only team to finish with a winning record above .500, the Mavericks had a school record 24-14-3 season. Minnesota State is also the only team in the conference to rank among the top twenty teams in college hockey at the end of the season. Member of the WCHA since 1999, finished tied for fourth in the league last season.
Northern Michigan University: The Wildcats won the National Championship in 1991, and last made the NCAA Tournament in 2010. Were members of the WCHA from 1984-1997 before joining the CCHA until this season. Finished 15-10-4 last season and tenth in the CCHA.

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