WCHC bulks up to 17 teams for 2022-23 college hockey season
The face of collegiate club ice hockey in California and Arizona has undergone a major facelift for the 2022-23 season, and the West Coast Hockey Conference (WCHC) appears to be the prime beneficiary.
The WCHC, which operates at the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) men’s Division 2 level, has gone from nine members to 17 members seemingly overnight with the addition of eight incoming programs.
“UCLA and USC going to the Big Ten (in college football) wasn’t the only major conference realignment this summer,” Loyola Marymount University general manager Tyler Goeckner-Zoeller said. “We were approached by a few teams that wanted to join the WCHC and it snowballed to adding eight new teams to the conference.”
Returning teams to the WCHC from the 2021-22 season include defending conference champion Loyola Marymount, Long Beach State, CSU Bakersfield, UC Santa Barbara, CSU Fullerton, Cal Lutheran, Chapman University and UC Irvine.
CSU-Northridge, which did not compete last season, also returns to WCHC action for the upcoming season.
Notable expansion members include UCLA, Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University. UCLA and Arizona State were both members of the Pac-8 last season.
The WCHC retains its two-tier format but is now essentially comprised of three groups.
Tier 1 includes the six top-ranked teams: LMU, Long Beach State, Northern Arizona, UCLA, ASU and GCU. Goeckner-Zoeller calls the grouping “a very tough division.”
The Tier 2 South Division will include seven teams: CSU-Northridge, UC Santa Barbara, CSU Fullerton, CSU Bakersfield, Chapman University, UC Irvine and Cal Lutheran.
The Tier 2 North Division includes the four newly added programs from Northern California: Santa Clara University, Santa Rosa Junior College, UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz.
The conference playoffs, which by will hosted by UCLA at The Cube Santa Clarita, will include 10 teams — all six Tier 1 teams, plus the top three Tier 2 South teams and the top Tier 1 North team.
The ACHA serves as the governing body for non-NCAA men’s and women’s ice hockey in the United States.
Overall, the ACHA has grown with at least 24 new members for the 2022-23 season, including six in men’s Division 2, nine in men’s Division 3 and five in women’s Division 1.
ACHA executive director Craig Barnett said the men’s ACHA Division 1 level continues to build on the West Coast.
During the past 2021-22 season, ACHA membership comprised 454 teams in five divisions, of which 435 actually competed coming off the shortened 2020-21 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sixty-eight teams competed in Men’s Division 1 in 2021-22. The men’s Division 2 was the largest division with 187 teams, followed by men’s Division 3 with 97 teams, women’s Division 1 with 29 teams and Women’s Division 2 with 54 teams.
Men’s Division 1 will have 70 teams for the upcoming season with the addition of four teams from the M2 division (SDSU, Oregon, Purdue University Northwest and College of New Jersey) and two teams (Iowa State and Lindenwood University) not fielding M1 teams this season.
The W1 division will now include 34 teams, the highest number in that division since the 2006-07 season.
– Phillip Brents
(September 30, 2022)