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WCHA faces imbalanced schedule after Alabama-Huntsville drops hockey

Click here to view original web page at www.toledoblade.com
Bowling Green players celebrate a goal against Minnesota State during a January game at Slater Family Ice Arena. The Falcons, Mavericks, and the rest of the WCHA are facing likely schedule changes after Alabama-Huntsville cut hockey.

Suddenly down to nine members, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is mulling its next steps for the 2020-21 schedule.

The WCHA, Bowling Green’s conference affiliation in hockey, released its full league schedule May 6, but last week lost one of its 10 teams when the University of Alabama-Huntsville eliminated its hockey program due to economic shortfalls exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chargers, a two-time champion in NCAA Division II, moved up to the highest level of college hockey in 1998 and were the only Division I hockey team in the South.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 6,300 people had signed a change.org petition asking UAH administration to keep hockey, though the WCHA faces an imbalanced schedule if the Chargers do not field a team.

Todd Bell, the WCHA’s marketing and communications manager, said in an email the league has not yet decided how it will approach openings on the schedule created by Huntsville’s elimination of its hockey program.

The league planned a full schedule release including non-conference games at a to-be-determined date later this summer, and likely would announce any schedule changes at that time.

Like most other entities in the college sports, the WCHA and its remaining members are left in holding pattern for the time being.

"Whether you’re talking about reopening, whether you’re talking about non-conference travel, whether you're talking about our league, I think the next month is going to be critical for everybody to figure out, ‘Where are we at?’” Bowling Green coach Ty Eigner said.

In previous seasons, every team in the WCHA played 28 conference games with finish determined by total points in league games.

A school would play five league opponents in both a home series and an away series — four games against each team — for a total of 20 games. It would then play the remaining four opponents for one series apiece to accumulate the remaining eight conference games.

For the 2020-21 season, however, Huntsville's absence from the schedule leaves WCHA teams playing an irregular number of games.

Bowling Green was one of the schools that was scheduled to play Huntsville four times.

"You have some teams, like us, that are going to play 24 regular-season games, and you have other teams that are going to play 26 games, so what's the fairest or best way to determine your league champion based on that?" Eigner said.

The move leaves the WCHA with two options. It could keep the existing schedule, allow schools to have open dates when they were scheduled to play Huntsville, and decide the league finish based on points per game or winning percentage rather than total points.

Or it could go back to the drawing board to come up with a new schedule for a nine-team league.

With league meetings scheduled for next month, Egner said he's confident the conference will come up with a workable solution for the upcoming season.

"These are certainly unprecedented times," Eigner said. “I believe we have faith in the league and trust that everybody is going to be prepared for it and make the best decision possible."


Bowling Green players celebrate a goal against Minnesota State during a January game at Slater Family Ice Arena. The Falcons, Mavericks, and the rest of the WCHA are facing likely schedule changes after Alabama-Huntsville cut hockey.

Suddenly down to nine members, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is mulling its next steps for the 2020-21 schedule.

The WCHA, Bowling Green’s conference affiliation in hockey, released its full league schedule May 6, but last week lost one of its 10 teams when the University of Alabama-Huntsville eliminated its hockey program due to economic shortfalls exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chargers, a two-time champion in NCAA Division II, moved up to the highest level of college hockey in 1998 and were the only Division I hockey team in the South.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 6,300 people had signed a change.org petition asking UAH administration to keep hockey, though the WCHA faces an imbalanced schedule if the Chargers do not field a team.

Todd Bell, the WCHA’s marketing and communications manager, said in an email the league has not yet decided how it will approach openings on the schedule created by Huntsville’s elimination of its hockey program.

The league planned a full schedule release including non-conference games at a to-be-determined date later this summer, and likely would announce any schedule changes at that time.

Like most other entities in the college sports, the WCHA and its remaining members are left in holding pattern for the time being.

"Whether you’re talking about reopening, whether you’re talking about non-conference travel, whether you're talking about our league, I think the next month is going to be critical for everybody to figure out, ‘Where are we at?’” Bowling Green coach Ty Eigner said.

In previous seasons, every team in the WCHA played 28 conference games with finish determined by total points in league games.

A school would play five league opponents in both a home series and an away series — four games against each team — for a total of 20 games. It would then play the remaining four opponents for one series apiece to accumulate the remaining eight conference games.

For the 2020-21 season, however, Huntsville's absence from the schedule leaves WCHA teams playing an irregular number of games.

Bowling Green was one of the schools that was scheduled to play Huntsville four times.

"You have some teams, like us, that are going to play 24 regular-season games, and you have other teams that are going to play 26 games, so what's the fairest or best way to determine your league champion based on that?" Eigner said.

The move leaves the WCHA with two options. It could keep the existing schedule, allow schools to have open dates when they were scheduled to play Huntsville, and decide the league finish based on points per game or winning percentage rather than total points.

Or it could go back to the drawing board to come up with a new schedule for a nine-team league.

With league meetings scheduled for next month, Egner said he's confident the conference will come up with a workable solution for the upcoming season.

"These are certainly unprecedented times," Eigner said. “I believe we have faith in the league and trust that everybody is going to be prepared for it and make the best decision possible."


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