MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Two of Minnesota’s men’s college hockey teams will soon be playing conference games in the desert.
But it won’t be the Gophers.
Arizona State, which played its inaugural season of Division I men’s hockey this past season and is in the process of choosing a conference, is getting closer to that decision. Two sources told WCCO that the Big Ten is no longer in the running to add the Sun Devils, and that the choice is now between the Western Collegiate Hockey Association or the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
A decision from Arizona State is expected within the next two months, a source said, with the Sun Devils officially joining a conference in either 2017-18 or 2018-19 – most likely the latter.
The WCHA currently has 10 teams, including two from Minnesota – Bemidji State and Minnesota State-Mankato. The NCHC currently has eight, and likewise has two Minnesota teams: Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State.
Representatives from Arizona State met with representatives from the conferences earlier this month at the Frozen Four, sources said.
The Big Ten welcomed its first affiliate conference member for men’s hockey earlier this month, when it announced that Notre Dame would join the conference for hockey only, starting in 2017-18. It comes on the heels of Johns Hopkins joining the conference as an affiliate member in men’s lacrosse last season, and the Johns Hopkins women’s team set to join the conference as an affiliate member this fall.
The Big Ten, which for more than a hundred years did not have any affiliate members, thought it would be prudent to see how those three new affiliate memberships go before adding any more of them, a source said, and for now at least, is content with seven men’s hockey teams.