Compiled by D3hockey.com staff -- Courtesy Matt Stanek, WIAC
The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) has announced that the Northland men's and women's ice hockey teams will be joining the league effective with the 2019-20 season. Both programs currently play as members of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA).
“We are very excited to have our men’s and women’s hockey programs join the WIAC, and would like to thank them for this opportunity," said Northland athletics director Kim Falkenhagen.
"Not only will this move be positive for hockey in the Midwest, but will geographically help Northland’s hockey programs, while considering the student-athlete time management and demands.
The Northland men's program was an inaugural member of the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association (MCHA), where it began play in 1997 and has remained there since, including for the past five seasons following the league's re-branding as the NCHA.
“For our hockey programs and department it’s about moving forward,” said Lumberjacks' men's head coach Seamus Gregory. “The WIAC is a power conference in our own backyard, it rekindles rivalries with the Wisconsin schools. We are located on Lake Superior and our fan base is more familiar with the WIAC schools."
"In moving to the WIAC, we will also play more colleges and universities in Minnesota, limit our travel, and strengthen our recruiting. The NCHA is a great conference, but the WIAC is a far better fit for Northland College Hockey.”
The Northland women's program is one of the newer ones in Division III as it commenced play as an independent during the 2016-17 season prior to joining the NCHA for its 2017-18 campaign.
“In the last few seasons the WIAC has become a more competitive top to bottom conference on the women’s side," said Lumberjills head coach Kelly Rider. "In our first two seasons we’ve played two teams (UW-River Falls and UW-Superior) both years and it’s nice to have some familiarity with the conference already. It was great to follow UW-Eau Claire’s success this season and there is no reason our program cannot do the same in the near future.”
The Northland men will become the sixth men's team in the WIAC, where it will join UW-Eau Claire, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Stout and UW-Superior, while the Northland women will become the league's fifth member as UW-Stout does not sponsor a women's program.