COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State women’s ice hockey team has accepted an offer to join College Hockey America and will begin league play in 2004-05, ending a five-year affiliation with the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
“We have certainly enjoyed our stay in the WCHA. It has been very beneficial for the growth and development of our young team,” said Andy Geiger, Ohio State director of athletics, said. “At the same time, we look forward to our new affiliation with the CHA and the opportunities this league presents. The proximity of the teams in this league make it especially attractive from a travel standpoint for Ohio State.”
Ohio State is one of two teams which will begin start CHA play in 2004-05, as Quinnipiac accepted the CHA’s invitation in July. The CHA Women’s conference, which began in 2002-03, currently consists of Findlay, Mercyhurst, Niagara and Wayne State. Mercyhurst claimed the regular-season and playoff titles in the league’s inaugural campaign.
Ohio State is familiar with the teams in CHA, as the Buckeyes have played Findlay, Mercyhurst and Wayne State during the past four years. OSU will play three teams currently in the conference (Findlay, Mercyhurst and Niagara), as well as Quinnipiac this season.
Since moving to Division I in 1999, Ohio State has competed in the WCHA. The Buckeyes placed fourth in the standings in each year except 2001. That year, the Buckeyes placed fifth during the regular season, yet still advanced to the WCHA championship game by upsetting regular-season champion Minnesota.
“We have had a positive experience competing in the WCHA the past five years,” Jackie Barto, Ohio State head coach, said. “We are very excited about joining College Hockey America, which is committed to women’s hockey and the growth of collegiate hockey. We look forward to beginning this new association next season and feel it will be a positive for our program.”
With the addition of Ohio State and Quinnipiac, the league will feature six members, the minimum number required to be eligible for an automatic berth in the NCAA championship.
“I think it’s a huge positive that Ohio State looked at the big picture for not just themselves, but also from a women’s hockey standpoint,” said Niagara coach Margot Page. “We have four [six-team] leagues now. Because of that everyone’s getting a home, which hasn’t happened in the past.”