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Miami Hockey Joins New Power Conference

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth

and five other top hockey programs will make up the new National

Collegiate Hockey Conference at the start of the 2013-14 season,

the schools announced Wednesday.

Minnesota Duluth, Colorado College, Denver, Nebraska-Omaha and

North Dakota of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association will join

current Central Collegiate Hockey Association member Miami of Ohio

in the new league.

The upstart conference hopes to also add Notre Dame, but an

agreement with the Fighting Irish hasn't been made yet.

"Notre Dame is in conversations with us," North Dakota

athletic director Brian Faison said. "They're certainly a program

that meets our core values of our conference and we have an

interest in them, but we'll continue to explore other options."

The conference laid out its immediate priorities, which include

hiring a commissioner and adding other schools.

"I don't think there's a magic number. It still needs to be

discussed," Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said of how many

teams would eventually make up the conference.

"We all feel there are going to be other expressions of

interest," Colorado College athletic director Ken Ralph said. "I

don't think you'll see us stay at six. We'll grow to seven, maybe

eight."

The landscape of college hockey changed this year when the Big

Ten announced a plan to form a hockey conference in two seasons.

The new Big Ten hockey league will take Minnesota and Wisconsin

from the 50-year-old WCHA to play with Michigan, Michigan State and

Ohio State of the CCHA and the startup program at Penn State. That

shake up led to the formation of the NCHC.

"Talks of Big Ten hockey go back 15 years," Denver athletic

director Peg Bradley-Doppes said. "When Big Ten hockey was formed,

it created a tipping point. That tipping point created more

discussions."

The WCHA will have only five teams remaining when the National

Collegiate Hockey Conference begins - Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji

State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State in Mankato and St. Cloud

State.

"Obviously, it's a tough day for the WCHA and a sad one for me

personally, and it's one that is not easy to put into

perspective," WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said in a statement.

"We wish everyone well, but make no mistake, the Western

Collegiate Hockey Association is not going away.

"The league will proudly mark its 60th season this fall and we

will continue to operate as a full-fledged association and continue

to do business."

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference boasts a strong

contingent of teams. In the past 12 seasons the schools account for

14 Frozen Four appearances and four national championships. Besides

Minnesota Duluth's title this spring, Denver won back-to-back

titles in 2004-05, and North Dakota won the championship in 2000.

All six teams in the new conference competed in the NCAA

tournament this year.

"This type of conference, where you have the best playing each

other every weekend starting in October is a daunting task,"

Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. "We want to play the best. We

understand it's going to be difficult."

The competitiveness of the teams was a big draw for

Nebraska-Omaha.

"We've made a huge commitment to hockey," athletic director

Trev Alberts said. "This is exactly what we envisioned two and a

half years ago, aligning with programs that have really competed at

the highest level of hockey."

Keeping rivalries intact was also important to Denver and

Colorado College, which are located 75 miles apart.

"For our fan bases and college hockey on the front range, it

was important to keep us together," Ralph said. "It's a happening

event and we wanted to make sure it continued."

 

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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