Monday, June 18, 2012

St. Scholastica and St. Norbert Join MCHA

Earlier this year, the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association saw itself blown up. Five members -- all University of Wisconsin system schools -- pulled out of the league so the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference could start its own hockey league.

The move immediately cast doubt on the futures of two private schools -- St. Scholastica of Duluth and St. Norbert, near Green Bay -- in the league.

Now, those futures are more clear. Wes Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press Gazette reported Monday morning that the two will join the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association for men's hockey starting in the 2013-14 season.

Two local sources have since confirmed the report. A press conference is set for the St. Norbert campus on Tuesday afternoon to make the official announcement.

St. Norbert has won ten of the last 11 NCHA regular season championships, and the Green Knights are back-to-back NCAA Division III champions. SNC is unbeaten at 55-0-2 all-time against the current membership of the MCHA.

(That membership, by the way, is as follows: Adrian and Finlandia of Michigan; Concordia, Lawrence, Marian, Milwaukee School of Engineering, and Northland of Wisconsin; and Lake Forest of Illinois.)

The league has seen improvement in recent years, thanks in part to the addition of an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs for its tournament champion. Adrian was the NCAA runner-up in 2010, while MSOE made the tournament last year and was hardly embarrassed in its first-ever game, losing 3-1 at Gustavus Adolphus.

Obviously, the WIAC taking in CSS and St. Norbert would have been best from a competitive standpoint. I can't envision a scenario where the Green Knights don't dominate the MCHA, at least at the start. The majority of the league will have plenty of work to do to catch up to the level SNC is capable of playing.

This adds uncertainty on the WIAC side, as the league -- currently set to be comprised of UWS, UW-Eau Claire, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Stout -- is one team short of the minimum required for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. There had been rumblings the conference would pursue Concordia (located in Mequon) and MSOE to develop a Milwaukee footprint. Nothing has been announced in that regard, however.

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