Evolution of college hockey

Ferris State to welcome the WCHA

After 33 years spent in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), Ferris State prepares to join one of the nation’s oldest college hockey conferences: the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).

Ferris’ head coach Bob Daniels has 25 years of CCHA experience in the books, with 21 seasons spent as head coach of Ferris.

“[The CCHA] started off with a bunch of small schools and had a bunch of larger ones join,” Daniels said. “It was really a great relationship for all the schools. I think the benefits of it being a good, strong bus league was positive for everyone during that time of college hockey.”

The WCHA was established in 1951, and as its motto suggests, just got tougher with the addition of Ferris State’s defensive-minded coaching style.

Ferris finished its final CCHA season with the third fewest goals scored against (89) in the conference. Ferris completed the year 16-16-5 overall and 13-12-3-1 for fifth place in the league.

“With everything you have an evolution, and now we find ourselves in another strong hockey league,” Daniels said. “I think from my standpoint, the WCHA will be very similar to the CCHA in quality of play. We may not have schools like a Michigan or Michigan State in terms of that sort of size, but we’ve got a lot of really good hockey-playing schools.”

There are no collegiate conferences in any sport that can top the list of national accomplishments the WCHA has and what its teams have earned in the league’s 62 years.

“The cumulative tradition of all these schools is really strong,” Daniels said. “I look at this new league with the kind of teams in it. I would be really disappointed if we didn’t get three teams in the tournament next year.”

Programs representing the WCHA own a record 37 national championships and have finished runner-up 27 times. The WCHA has entered at least one team for the Frozen Four in 57 of 61 total seasons. Six WCHA programs were selected to compete in this year’s 2013 NCAA Tournament.

In 2013, the Bulldogs will realign with four other CCHA members in a remodeled league. Joining from the CCHA are Lake Superior State (LSSU), Northern Michigan (NMU), Alaska Fairbanks and Bowling Green State (BGSU).

The CCHA’s past members will join Minnesota State, the most successful program of 2012-13 remaining in the WCHA after its fourth place finish in the league. Minnesota-State (24-13-3) had 127 goals for and 99 against the past year.

Others to stay in the WCHA include Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State and Michigan Tech (MTU). Alabama-Huntsville will also join.

One notable similarity among next year’s WCHA members is that few programs have won national titles. Every program has made an appearance in the national tournament.

LSSU and MTU own the most national championships with three. BGSU and NMU have one title each. Six programs are without a title.

Ferris has had recent national success. The Bulldogs attained national runner-up honors and their first-ever Frozen Four berth in 2011-12.

Minnesota State and Ferris State, the past season’s most successful programs from each of its leagues, graduate five seniors this year.

Minnesota State was directed by first year head coach Mike Hastings, who led the team to a nationally 11th-ranked finish in the tournament’s first round.

New rivalries are to be formed, while well-known rivalries between Michigan, Michigan State and Western Michigan will be continued as Ferris looks forward.

“For us to have a really good rivalry, like with Bemidji, we’re going to have to have a couple tough games and playoff series, a little controversy, [develop] a respected hate for each other,” Daniels said.

Ferris is ebullient to join a league it expects to enter as a playoff contender for the 2013-14 season