After the devastating changeup in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) this past July, in which several top schools scheduled their departure from the conference, the program seems to be looking up.
In the last days of August, invitations were sent out to Alaska Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Western Michigan.
Alaska Fairbanks, Ferris State and Lake Superior were quick to accept.
“I think its good for our program to have Fairbanks in and obviously it’s a natural fit,” UAA head hockey coach Dave Shyiak said. “When you have the geographic with Fairbanks and Anchorage, it’s great for the communities, it’s great for the universities and it’s great for the fans. It’s our biggest rivalry and that makes it a good fit.”
Even with the progress the program has made since July, both coaches and players have mixed feelings on how the program has changed.
“Only time will tell how it will work out, but I guess I liked it the way it was,” Shyiak said. “The WCHA I think was unique for a school like ours to be able to go up and play the Big-10 schools like Denver and North Dakota.
The WCHA, which the ‘Wolves have played in since 1993, has already inducted Northern Michigan back into the league (as of July 20) after their departure in 1997.
In just two months the program has already seen huge changes and by 2013 when the new WCHA begins even more drastic changes are expected, according to Shyiak.
The WCHA presidents have set a response time-line of 30 days for the teams who received invites.
Western Michigan has also had a chance to be part of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA), but it is unclear at this time what move they will make.
Should Bowling Green and Western Michigan accept, they would be joining Fairbanks, Ferris State and Lake Superior, as well as UAA, Bemidji State University, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State University, Mankato, St. Cloud University and Northern Michigan.
The WCHA and the Central Collegiate Hockey Conference (CCHA) have been working together. They will hold regular talks to discuss by-laws, scheduling, tournament scenarios, additional memberships and finances. These will be follow ups to the meeting held at the end of August in Chicago, where both the WCHA and CCHA shared various information about the hockey programs at there institutions; such as financial information, facility information, community support, staffing and travel.
For now the program is at a standstill waiting on the undecided teams.
“It’s hard to say what will happen, I mean it’s hard to reach into a glass ball,” Shyiak said.