There’s little doubt that this upcoming season is going to be filled with both anticipation and excitement. Last year, Colorado College finished their campaign on a strong note and won six of their last seven games, but eventually fell in the WCHA Championship. CC finished losing only five of their last 17 games, with an overall record of 18-19-5.This year, expectations are much higher as first-round defenseman Gustav Olofsson,will be among five players on CC’s 2013-14 roster to have been drafted by NHL teams, joining fellow freshman Jaccob Slavin (Carolina 2012), sophomore Hunter Fejes (Phoenix 2012), junior Aaron Harstad (Winnipeg 2011), and junior Peter Stoykewych (Winnipeg, then Atlanta 2010). Even after losing arguably half of their offense this year, the Tigers are ready for the change.

The 2013-2014 college hockey season will see some major changes in conference play. Colorado College is leaving the WCHA to join the new look National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) this year. Much has been made of the conference realignment, and many are wondering why and more importantly how this will affect the Tigers this year.   As a result of a large donation from Penn State Alum Terry Pagula, PSU was able to establish hockey programs at the school. The growth of the Big Ten Conference means that Minnesota and Wisconsin will leave the WCHA, and Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State will leave the CCHA. Without Minnesota and Wisconsin, the WCHA will see a pretty dramatic shift in revenue generation and exposure. Several schools made the decision to form a new association, and Colorado College was invited to join. According to Colorado College Athletic Director Ken Ralph, “In the long run the switch to the new conference will make a great deal of sense from both a competitive and financial standpoint.” 

So will we still get the satisfaction of beating our rivals DU?  Rest assured both DU and Frozen Four finalist St. Cloud State and many of our other memorable opponents are also taking their talents to the NCHC, joining the defending conference champions Miami of Ohio. 

The new league will operate significantly like the old one.  Behind the scenes, however, a lot has changed. This year, all NCHC regular-season conference match-ups will feature a shootout should the game end in a tie at the conclusion of a five-minute overtime period. Any game that uses a shootout will be officially recorded as a tie within the overall record of each team; however an extra point will be awarded within conference standings to help declare a regular season champion. This change brings new excitement to the end of games and greater suspense during the regular season. Non-conference games held in NCHC venues also will feature a shootout with mutual agreement from the visiting schools. The NCHC Championship will be held on March 21 and 22, 2014 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It looks to be one of the most anticipating conference finals this year. “In the NCHC, the schools have made significant commitments to fund their programs to the highest levels and to have a goal of competing at the highest levels nationally,” Ralph states. “While the WCHA will still have some outstanding programs and will compete for national recognition, the strength of teams top to bottom cannot match the NCHC.” So as the NCHC begins its inaugural season on Oct. 18, with our own CC Tigers hosting Minnesota Duluth, one thing can be for certain: Colorado College is up to challenge of the NCHC and is looking to make a real push at national exposure.

 

Doron Mitchell

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