Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Penn State Joins CHA

Josh Brandwene (right) speaks at today's press conference while CHA commissioner Robert DeGregorio listens. Photo: GoPSUSports.com

Transcript (GoPSUSports.com) // Video (Big Ten Network)
Roll Up The Score recap // Associated Press recap (via PennLive)
Joe Battista interview (GoPSUTV) // Bob DeGregorio interview (GoPSUTV)
Josh Brandwene interview (GoPSUTV) // Tim Curley interview (GoPSUTV)

It was less of a press conference than it was a confirmation, but as of this afternoon PSU women's program is officially a member of College Hockey America beginning with the varsity program's inaugural season in 2012-2013. Along with that announcement comes an unstated one: Robert Morris, Mercyhurst, Niagara and Syracuse are now our biggest rivals (well, okay, Syracuse already kind of was one from the days of yore and in other sports). Penn State will play each of those schools four times (two home, two away) during the conference schedule.

Here's the full press release:
The Penn State women's ice hockey team will join College Hockey America when it begins its first season of NCAA play in 2012-13, it was announced Tuesday at a press conference held at Beaver Stadium.

The addition of the Nittany Lions will make the CHA a five-team league, with Penn State joining Mercyhurst, Niagara, Robert Morris and Syracuse.

"We're excited to join such a competitive conference in College Hockey America," said Tim Curley, Penn State Director of Athletics. "The CHA showcases elite student-athletes and teams and we look forward to developing strong in-state and regional rivalries with its members."

"We're honored and proud to be joining the CHA at this transformational time in our program's history," said Josh Brandwene, head women's ice hockey coach. "Competing right away against such quality teams is a great opportunity for us to hit the ground running and further accelerate our program's growth and development. It's an exciting time for Penn State Women's Hockey."

"We're pleased and excited with the admission of Penn State to College Hockey America," said Robert DeGregorio, CHA Commissioner. "We know because of their rich academic and athletic traditions, they will be a great addition to our league and will only make it better."

In the expanded league, each team will play a 16-game conference schedule with teams playing four games against each conference opponent. All league members will qualify for the CHA tournament, which will be held at the highest seed.

College Hockey America, which formed in 2002, has sent a representative to the NCAA tournament each year since 2005.
The event itself, in addition to the reiteration of the above quotes, offered a juicy tidbit: the CHA is actively seeking a sixth member (and the NCAA tournament autobid that comes with it). Conference leadership will accept yet another application within two weeks, with the goal of a final announcement by December 1st. The smart money, as far as I'm concerned, is on transitioning-to-DI program Lindenwood, a school pretty familiar to ACHA fans.

There's little doubt that the Penn State-CHA alliance is a mutually beneficial one at this juncture. PSU has a secure conference arrangement in a world where the Big Ten doesn't exist. Compared to the relative meat grinder facing the men, it's a conference that will allow the program time to grow into itself while spreading the brand with a large number of out-of-conference games. It's great geography, with every program located in Pennsylvania or New York. And it has a very, very obvious measuring stick in Mercyhurst. I haven't even mentioned the not-so-small matter of a fantastic web broadcast agreement that will be a boon to fans and parents (and bloggers who live in Ohio).

Meanwhile, the CHA gets a big-name, well-financed, hopefully competitive entry that will bring a state-of-the-art building in year two. In short, adding PSU is a huge step for the conference as it attempts to reclaim some of the credibility lost when the departure of Wayne State into oblivion left it with just four teams. It's also step one of two in its quest for an autobid.

Related posts:
Wayne State Drops Women's Hockey
PSU Women Apply For CHA Membership
Coming to America One
Back to School
PSU Schedules Women's Press Conference

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