New league, more travel for St. Scholastica's men's hockey teamA new hockey home will mean considerably more travel for the St. Scholastica men starting in 2013-14, but all other aspects of joining the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association are favorable, coach Mark Wick said Friday.
By: Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune
A new hockey home will mean considerably more travel for the St. Scholastica men starting in 2013-14, but all other aspects of joining the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association are favorable, coach Mark Wick said Friday.
St. Scholastica and St. Norbert College of DePere, Wis., two Division III private schools, went in search of a new conference in February when five Wisconsin-affiliated state schools announced intentions of leaving the seven-team Northern Collegiate Hockey Association, which has been in operation since 1980-81.
The Saints and Green Knights officially announced last week that, after a final season in the NCHA, they’ll join the MCHA, bringing membership to 10 teams. The schools are in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois, with St. Scholastica the only one in Minnesota.
“There are only three Division III conferences in the West, and right from the beginning, the MCHA showed the most interest. We were contacted almost immediately,” said Wick, entering his ninth season with the Saints in 2012-13. “The MCHA was our first choice.”
MCHA commissioner G. Steven Larson wooed both schools, and both bring solid credentials to a conference beginning its 15th season in 2012-13. St. Norbert has won two straight NCAA championships, while St. Scholastica was in the Division III tournament in 2009. St. Norbert is 55-0-2 lifetime against MCHA schools, while St. Scholastica is 10-1 the last four years.
Current MCHA members are: Adrian (Mich.) College, Concordia University of Mequon, Wis., Finlandia University of Hancock, Mich.; Lake Forest (Ill.) College; Lawrence University of Appleton, Wis.; Marian University of Fond du Lac, Wis.; Milwaukee School of Engineering; and Northland College of Ashland. The MCHA offices are in Waukesha, Wis.
Adrian was in the 2011 Division III title game, losing to St. Norbert 4-3.
St. Scholastica athletic director Don Olson said in a statement last week: “We feel that philosophically and athletically it will be an excellent fit for (our) men’s hockey program and the MCHA.”
The Wisconsin state colleges will form a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference hockey league starting in 2013-14. The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is the other Division III conference in the West.
St. Scholastica, in estimating travel within the three leagues, calculated an average of 173 miles per road trip in the MIAC, 177 miles in the WIAC and 336 miles in the MCHA. The MCHA will have 18 league games (all two-game series) and seven non-league games, giving the Saints about four long road trips each season.
“Going to the MCHA was definitely going to be a more expensive venture for us, because of travel, and we talked with our administration about it,” said Wick. “Our administration understood and was supportive.”
Joining state schools in the WIAC didn’t appeal to the Saints and the 13-school MIAC has a moratorium on expansion. All roads pointed to the MCHA.
“Everywhere we look in the MCHA, we’re seeing positive growth,” Tim Coghlin, entering his 20th season at St. Norbert, said in a press conference last week. “When you get a chance to sit back and reflect on who do you want to be associated with, like members and institutions on board for all the right reasons, this is a great group to be a part of.”
The MCHA is to finalize a 2013-14 playoff format this week. It’s expected that the top two teams during the regular season will receive a first-round bye, while the remaining eight will be paired for a two-game (plus mini-game) series. The league tournament will cover three weekends with the winner earning an automatic NCAA berth.
The WIAC hockey league will have Superior, River Falls, Stevens Point, Eau Claire and Stout. Those schools announced in February they’d leave the NCHA after 2013-14, but after re-evaluation they announced in April the departure would be after 2012-13.
Last season in the NCHA, St. Norbert won the regular-season title and St. Scholastica was second.
The breakup of the men’s NCHA will not affect the women’s NCHA, league commissioner Bill Kronschnabel said in a statement Wednesday.