It’s been in the works for a while now, but it looks like Women’s Hockey East will finally have itself an even number of members again.
According to USCHO, Holy Cross will be joining Women’s Hockey East as the conferences 10th member, starting in the 2018-2019 season. The conference is expected to officially announce the move at 11am today.
Hockey East had been sitting at eight members for a long time until Merrimack, automatically a member of the women’s conference due to their men’s conference membership, added varsity women’s hockey and joined the league in 2015-2016. That put the conference at 9 members. While that didn’t make for too clunky of a situation (the teams still played each other 3 times a year and allowed 8 teams into the league playoffs), having an odd number of teams isn’t ideal.
Enter Holy Cross. The Crusaders are a D-I program that has played a D-III schedule for most of its existence, but their D-III conference in which they have been a member, the New England Hockey Conference, forced Holy Cross’ hand. The league was only going to allow D-III institutions to remain in the conference, forcing the Crusaders and a few other programs into a weird D-I/D-II limbo.
This was temporarily resolved for next season with a D-I/D-II scheduling alliance (one that might cause some NCAA tournament selection issues). And now, Holy Cross has decided to fully upgrade their program to a D-I schedule and join Hockey East starting in 2018-2019.
While it might take some time for the Crusaders to bring their program up to a competitive level, it adds a potential new rival for the Eagles, as Holy Cross and Boston College have a decades-long, storied rivalry from the football field.