|Robert Morris is the defending CHA tournament champs, but Mercyhurst has won all of the others. Photo: Alyssa Benson/RMU Sentry Media|
Because College Hockey America's membership is growing (the hard way - three programs added, two disbanded in the last two years), so is its tournament, as announced on the CHA website.
Since its 2002-2003 founding, CHA's membership count and tournament were largely unchanged, as generally four teams would meet over a weekend for a single-elimination semifinals and championship game at a rotating campus site. From 2008-2009 through 2010-2011, a play-in game was added to accomodate its five team membership.
For the first time this season, CHA is up to six teams with the additions of RIT via Division III, and Lindenwood and of course Penn State via the ACHA. That leads to another CHA first. Following the regular season, the teams finishing third through sixth in the standings will meet in a best-of-three first round (3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5), played at the rink of the higher seed. In 2013, those games will take place over the weekend of Friday, March 1st through Sunday, March 3rd.
The two first-round winners will advance to the semifinals, where the first and second seeds await at the top seed's home. The teams will be re-seeded, and the semis for this first go-around will be on Friday, March 8th, with the championship game following on March 9th.
The format is identical to the one initially selected by the Big Ten, another six-team league, before PSU's men's league opted to move the whole thing to a rotation of St. Paul, MN and Detroit.
After that? Possibly nothing. Because the CHA has never had the minimum of six teams until now, its tournament champion has never received an autobid to the NCAA tournament. If the current membership sticks around for two full seasons, the league would be eligible for an autobid for 2015. Mercyhurst has made the NCAA tournament as an at-large team for each of the last eight seasons (including a national championship game appearance in 2009), and they're the only CHA team to ever play in NCAAs. Robert Morris, which upset the Lakers in last season's title game to become the first non-MU champ in conference history, had to sit at home.
America One will broadcast the 2013 CHA tournament online, as part of a current three-year deal to carry all CHA league and tournament games, as well as home non-conference games of its membership. Ticket information has not yet been announced.
The W 2012-2012 Schedule page has been updated with the CHA playoff information.
Special thanks to PennStateWomensHockey.com for the tip on this news.