Friday, June 26, 2009

WCHA Expands to Twelve

The WCHA announced today that the conference will expand to 12 teams starting the fall of 2011 adding Bemidji State and University of Nebraska – Omaha. As much as I wanted to believe that Northern Michigan would rejoin the WCHA, the writing was on the wall when Dean Blais took the head coaching job at UNO. The speed of the decision is impressive as Blais just was announced two weeks ago today.

The New Look WCHA. The next big question to solve, and the league has plenty of time to decide, is to create a rotation for conference schedules. As of last year, the WCHA teams (10) each played 28 conference games, the same number as the 12 team CCHA. Assuming that the number of conference games stays the same, the likely rotation according to commissioner Bruce McLeod is breaking into three “pods.” Each pod would be comprised of two “rival” teams and another set of rival teams that rotate in each year. Currently in the WCHA two pod system, UMD’s rival is Michigan Tech. In the new system, each team in the pod would play the other three in their group four times, one series at home and one on the road. That takes care of 12 games. Of the remaining 8 teams, UMD would play each of them for one series for a total of 4 home series and four away. That gives us 16 more games for the 28 that we are looking for. Currently it take s the 10 team WCHA two years to complete a full cycle of the schedule and in the new system proposed, it would take five years.

Rivals? Currently this is what the rivals are in the WCHA:
UMTC – Wisconsin
Saint Cloud State – NoDak
Colorado College – Denver
Mankato – Alaska Anchorage
Where do BSU and UNO fit into the rival scheme? My theory is that all rival will stay the same except that the two Maverick squads, Mankato and UNO, will become rivals leaving Bemidji to make the long trip to Anchorage every year.

All in all, the WCHA will be much different (final Final Five March 2010?), but this move will be heralded as the savior of Bemidji hockey and the great return of Dean Blais to the WCHA.

This has been a busy summer for college hockey, but at least I have a good view from my HighHorse.

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