St. Norbert and St. Scholastica leave the NCHA for the MCHAThe St. Norbert and St. Scholastica men’s and women’s hockey teams were left searching for a conference when UW-Superior, UW-Stout, UW-Stevens Point, UW-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire announced they would depart the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association after 2012-13 to form the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for men’s and women’s hockey.
By: Ken Olson, Superior Telegram
The Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association announced Tuesday afternoon that St. Norbert College and the College of St. Scholastica men’s hockey teams have both accepted invitations to become members of the league beginning in the 2013-14.
“This is a great and exciting day for the MCHA,” league commissioner Dr. G. Steven Larson said. “We are very enthusiastic about having the College of St. Scholastica and St. Norbert College as colleagues. The strong academic and hockey tradition they bring will be an outstanding fit for our new members and the MCHA membership.”
The MCHA, which consists of all private schools and will enter its 15th season of play in 2012-13, has steadily grown from a small, six-member conference back in 1998 into 10 teams when the Green Knights and Saints are added to the league slate starting in 2013.
The St. Norbert and St. Scholastica men’s and women’s hockey teams were left searching for a conference when UW-Superior, UW-Stout, UW-Stevens Point, UW-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire announced they would depart the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association after 2012-13 to form the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for men’s and women’s hockey.
With options of joining the WIAC or pursuing membership in either the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference or MCHA, both CSS and SNC decided that joining the MCHA was the best move at this time.
“We were pleased and honored to accept an invitation from the MCHA for men’s hockey,” said CSS athletic director Don Olson. “We feel that philosophically and athletically it will be an excellent fit for the CSS men’s hockey program and the MCHA. We look forward to a long and positive relationship with the other nine members of the MCHA.”
Current members of the MCHA are: Adrian (Mich.) College, Concordia of Mequon, Wis., Finlandia of Hancock, Mich.; Lake Forest (Ill.) College; Lawrence University of Appleton, Wis.; Marian of Fond du Lac, Wis.; Milwaukee School of Engineering; and Northland College of Ashland.
“We’re not surprised at all,” UWS athletic director Steven Nelson said. “It’s unfortunate because the NCHA was always one of the most competitive conferences in the country, but for a number of years we had a conference that consisted of private and public schools that go by different rules. It doesn’t make either conference right or wrong, there’s just a difference in philosophies and at this junction, it’s probably something that had to happen.”
Tuesday’s announcement leaves the WIAC with just five teams and without an automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament.
“That’s the unfortunate thing for us, but we knew that going in, and we don’t have enough state schools to make our new conference bigger,” Nelson said. “We’re just going to have play with the cards we’re dealt.”
The Green Knights bring an impressive resume to the MCHA, having won NCAA D-III National Championships in 2008, 2011 and again in 2012 when they compiled a record of 21-5-5.
“This also strengthens and elevates the national reputation of the MCHA in NCAA III men’s ice hockey, as demonstrated by St. Norbert’s consecutive national championships in 2011 and 2012 along with the national runner-up finish of Adrian College in 2011,” Larson said. “This past season alone, four teams finished in the national rankings with St. Norbert at No. 1, MSOE at No. 8, Adrian at No. 11, and St. Scholastica at No. 19 (receiving votes). In addition, Lawrence and Marian were ranked during the course of the year.”
St. Norbert has claimed 13 of the past 16 conference regular-season crowns it has competed for, with head coach Tim Coghlin accumulating a 19-year mark of 411-113-45.
“St. Norbert College is excited to be joining a hockey conference with a membership of liberal arts institutions with similar profiles,” St. Norbert Director of Athletics Tim Bald said. “During its history, the MCHA has been very progressive in its leadership and as a result has seen the profile of the conference rise exponentially. We are excited to become a part of that and look forward to the future as a MCHA member.”
St. Scholastica went 15-8-5 last season and was nationally-ranked the majority of the year, rising as high as No. 11. In fact, it has gone an impressive 61-37-14 the past four seasons, finishing fifth in the country at the end of 2009, a campaign that saw CSS rise to as high as No. 2 in the polls in January of 2009.
“We are very excited to be joining these teams in a conference we feel is very committed to winning,” said St. Scholastica men’s hockey coach Mark Wick. “This move will continue to allow us to compete at a national level as we feel this will be the best conference in the western region.”
Starting in 2013-14, the MCHA will be playing a complete 18-game round-robin schedule with a two-game series vs. each team. Discussions are also under way with the commissioners of both the MIAC and WIAC regarding collaborative scheduling.
“We wish St. Norbert and St. Scholastica the best and I hope they wish us the best,” Nelson said.
“Will we still play them? No question. If the schedules permit, I’d like to play them both four times in home-and-home series.”
St. Scholastica opens its season on Friday, Oct. 26 at UWS.
NOTES: Last season in the NCHA, St. Norbert won the regular-season title and St. Scholastica was second. … The MCHA expansion marks the first since the start of the 2009-10 season, when Lake Forest College joined the ranks of the conference. … Both the CSS and St. Norbert women’s hockey programs will remain in the NCHA. Other women’s teams already in the NCHA include MCHA men’s members Adrian College (Mich.), Concordia University (Wis.), Finlandia University (Mich.), Lake Forest College (Ill.) and Marian University (Wis.).
Chris Zills of the MCHA contributed to this story.