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Arizona State finds NCAA Division I home, will join NCHC for 2024-25 season


For the first time since play began in 2013, the NCHC is expanding with the addition of Arizona State University as the ninth member of the conference beginning with the 2024-25 season.

Arizona State will join Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota Duluth, Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan in composing the NCHC’s membership.

“On behalf of the entire NCHC board, I am thrilled to welcome Arizona State University to the elite conference in college hockey,” said NCHC chair of the board and North Dakota president Andy Armacost. “ASU’s commitment to excellence on the ice, in the classroom, and in the lives of student-athletes reflects the ideals of the NCHC, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have them as our newest member.”

Arizona State elevated its hockey program to varsity status for the 2015-16 season and has quickly become a nationally competitive program under 15-year head coach Greg Powers. In 2018-19, the Sun Devils earned their first-ever top-10 win while receiving their first national ranking soon after. In only its third full season, ASU secured an at-large berth to the 2019 NCAA tournament, becoming the fastest start-up program ever to qualify for the tournament.

In Feb. 2020, the Sun Devils cracked the top 10 in the national rankings for the first time in program history. ASU was on pace to make a second straight NCAA tournament appearance before it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sun Devils still finished with back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2019-20. ASU is coming off an 18-21-0 record this past 2022-23 season, which included wins over top-10 teams North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as a 3-4-0 record against NCHC teams.

“Since the inception of NCAA Division I ice hockey at ASU, we’ve searched for a conference that embodies our commitment to the student-athlete experience, academics, championship performance, and elite competition. After a successful first season at Mullett Arena, the time is right to secure membership within a distinguished conference and we’re thrilled to join the NCHC,” said ASU VP for university athletics Ray Anderson. “This membership further enriches and empowers our commitment to providing the best experience for our students, fans, alumni, and community stakeholders. In exchange, we look forward to hosting our fellow NCHC member institutions and contributing to the standard of excellence set by the conference and its historic programs.”

In the fall of 2022, Arizona State opened Mullett Arena on campus, which serves as the new home for Sun Devil hockey, as well as the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. Mullett Arena seats 5,000 people for hockey games (942 seats for students), with the NHL adding a $19.7 million annex onto Mullett Arena, which includes state-of-the-art locker rooms, a training room, a strength and conditioning room and more.

ASU averaged more than 4,600 fans per game during its first season at Mullett Arena, ranking 12th nationally in average attendance. Colorado College was the first NCHC team to visit Mullett Arena back on Oct. 21-22, 2022. Mullett Arena can also host concerts and other family events year-round.

Arizona State boasts four alumni who have signed NHL contracts in the last four years, including two (Joey Daccord with Ottawa and Brinson Pasichnuk with San Jose) making NHL debuts. In the classroom, ASU has also seen success with 100 percent graduation success rates in two of the last three seasons. Seven Sun Devils earned Pac-12 winter academic honor roll this past season.

“The NCHC is ecstatic to welcome Arizona State University as a member beginning in the 2024-25 season. Since its inception, the NCHC has been defined by member institutions with a commitment to nationally competitive hockey programs while providing a first-class student-athlete experience. ASU has demonstrated this commitment throughout its program, including the opening of Mullett Arena last fall,” said NCHC commissioner Heather Weems. “As the NCAA Division I landscape continues to change, ASU advances the NCHC’s competitive and fiscal stability while providing a destination trip for NCHC member institutions’ alumni and fans.

“We are also excited to introduce ASU fans and the western U.S. market to the strong traditions of our member institutions and to create new rivalries within the NCHC.”

Although the NCHC is adding a ninth team, the conference will continue to use a 24-game NCHC schedule for each team in 2024-25, as it has done each of its first 10 seasons. However, a new three-year rotation and scheduling model will be implemented beginning with the 2024-25 season.

The new schedule model and rotation consists of three three-team pods based on geography with teams guaranteed to play home and away series against the other two teams in their pod every season (eight games). The three-team pods are Arizona State, Colorado College and Denver; Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota and St. Cloud State; and Miami, Omaha and Western Michigan.

The remaining 16 conference games will be played against the six ‘non-pod’ teams, with four opponents only being played in one series (eight games), home or away, and two ‘non-pod’ opponents being played in both home and away series (eight games). The ‘non-pod’ teams that are played either once or twice in a series will rotate over three seasons. The complete 2024-25 schedule will be released next spring.

The NCHC’s postseason format with nine teams for the 2024-25 season and beyond is still being evaluated and will be finalized and announced in the coming months.

Arizona State is a comprehensive public research university located in Tempe, Ariz. It has an enrollment of 57,588 students on its Tempe campus and is the largest public institution in the country. In total, ASU has 112,171 undergraduate students and 30,445 graduate students, including 62,551 online students. Arizona State has been ranked the No. 1 university in the United States for innovation by U.S. News & World Report for eight straight years. ASU is also the No. 1 public university in the U.S. chosen by international students.

“This will go down as one of the most influential days in the history of Sun Devil hockey. To be accepted as a member into such a tremendous conference like the NCHC with such historic college hockey programs is an honor we will never take for granted,” said Powers. “The ability to develop rivalries in a conference where hockey is paramount to all its members, chase the Penrose Cup, and compete in postseason championships is going to be a welcomed challenge for our student-athletes and fans. We can’t wait to get started and do our part in contributing to the NCHC, the greatest single-sport conference in college athletics.”

Arizona State will become an official member of the NCHC on July 1, 2024.

Matthew Kopperud photo/Mike Miller/Fighting Irish Media

(July 5, 2023)

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