It appears the University of Notre Dame will become Hockey East’s 11th team beginning with the 2013-2014 season.
According to a story in the South Bend Tribune, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which begins play for 2013-2014 with a mixture of nationally prominent schools from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, sent out a press release Sunday that stated it will debut as an eight-team league.
The NCHC’s eight teams are WCHA members Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, St. Cloud and North Dakota along with CCHA teams Miami of Ohio and Western Michigan.
Those teams formed their league after the Big Ten Conference announced it was branching out into hockey with CCHA teams Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, WCHA teams Minnesota and Wisconsin and newcomer Penn State, which will begin varsity play during 2012-2013.
Like the other schools, Penn State is in the Big Ten in all of its other sports.
Under NCAA guidelines, a league needs six teams to earn an automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament and an $88 million gift made to Penn State by an alum made that new program possible.
Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson recently said the Fighting Irish had narrowed down its choices to Hockey East and the NCHC and the South Bend Tribune story indicated Notre Dame will make an official announcement Wednesday.
The University of Maine’s underclass players, who would be playing Notre Dame beginning in 2013-2104, are happy to have the Fighting Irish in Hockey East.
“This is going to turn a lot of heads. I think it’s great with the history Notre Dame has,” said Maine sophomore center Jon Swavely. “That will only bring even more attention to Hockey East and the great teams we have in this conference.”
“That would be awesome,” said sophomore right wing Carlos Amestoy. “They’re a very good team and it’s fun to have some new competition.”
Notre Dame has qualified for the NCAA tournament the past four years, compiling an overall record of 115-43-15. The Fighting Irish have made two Frozen Four appearances in the four years including last year when the freshmen-laden Irish lost to eventual national champ Minnesota-Duluth 4-3 in the semifinals.
They are the nation’s top-ranked team.
And the Irish are moving into a brand-new facility this season, the Compton Family Ice Arena.
Notre Dame would give Hockey East four Catholic schools along with Boston College, Merrimack and Providence College.
Freshman center John Parker likes the fact Maine will have another “great opponent” on its schedule.
“That would be amazing,” said sophomore right wing Mark Anthoine. “It’ll be good for exposure. It’s good to switch things up. It keeps the fans excited and the players excited.”
Anthoine and Amestoy both said they had friends who play for Notre Dame.
It was also pointed out it’s beneficial to expand the league geographically.
Notre Dame will be the first Hockey East school that isn’t located in New England.