ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 07: : Kenny Reiter #35 of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs stops a shot by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Men's Frozen Four on April 7, 2011 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4-3. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
On Wednesday, Northern Michigan University's Board of Trustees voted to move back to the WCHA. In only took two days for the five programs left in the WCHA to accept Northern Michigan as the new (old?) league's sixth member:
"Northern Michigan will be officially approved for membership in the WCHA next week, according to a statement released by the league today.
Executives from the five schools that will remain in the WCHA as of 2013-14, met today in Minnesota to discuss the leagues future. The decision on Northern Michigan came out of that, and follows NMU's Board of Trustees approval earlier in the week for such a move."
Northern Michigan's move back to the WCHA leaves college hockey at a strange equilibrium of sorts, with six programs in each of the four western conferences -- National Collegiate Hockey Conference, WCHA, CCHA and the Big Ten Hockey Conference.
|NCHC (6)||WCHA (6)||CCHA (6)||Big Ten (6)|
|Denver||Bemidji State||Bowling Green||Michigan State|
|Miami (Ohio)||Michigan Tech||Ferris State||Minnesota|
|Minnesota-Duluth||Minnesota State||Lake Superior||Ohio State|
|Nebraska-Omaha||Northern Michigan||Notre Dame||Penn State|
|North Dakota||St. Cloud State||Western Michigan||Wisconsin|
Unfortunately, it's unlikely that things will stay this way for long. Notre Dame is expected to either join the NCHC, Hockey East or a mystery third option (hockey independence? keep the old CCHA gang together?). Western Michigan might follow the Irish to the NCHC. Alaska might be right behind Northern Michigan, joining the WCHA and fellow in-state program Alaska-Anchorage. Basically, this equilibrium will be extremely short-lived as other programs try their best to get off the sinking ship that is the CCHA.
Meanwhile, Minnesota State Moorhead may become the first program to join the ranks of Division I programs following Penn State's announcement last year. MSUM is 40 percent to their goal of funding a D-I program. If Minnesota State Moorhead does make the move, they would instantly claim the coolest mascot in all of Division I (the Dragons). Also, MSUM is kinda fun to say and sounds a bit like an Excel formula.
Obviously any college hockey expansion at the Division I level is welcomed with open arms, and MSUM would make D-I an even 60 programs, removing the awkwardness of having a prime number of teams at the sport's highest level (59). While Moorhead is just a stone's throw away from the North Dakota border, the Dragons would make a fine WCHA replacement team, joining fellow Minnesota programs Minnesota State Mankato, Bemidji State and St. Cloud State.
If only BC and Hockey East programs had a few more opportunities to schedule non-conference opponents throughout the season. Eagles vs. Dragons anyone?