Officially ending a four-month process, the ECAC announced today it is adding Quinnipiac to its membership, effective 2005-06. The announcement was officially made today at a news conference on Quinnipiac’s campus.
Quinnipiac will be replacing Vermont, which last winter announced its intentions to leave the ECAC for Hockey East following the upcoming season. The ECAC then went through a process of determining whether to add a team or teams, and if so, which ones.
Ultimately, Niagara, Holy Cross, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart and Mercyhurst were named finalists. Earlier in the summer, athletic directors chose Quinnipiac for recommendation, and the choice was officially approved by the league’s Policy Committee — comprised of non-athletics representatives from each school — last Friday in Albany.
“The ECAC Hockey League is extremely pleased to extend membership to Quinnipiac University,” ECAC Hockey League commissioner Steve Hagwell said. “We are confident that Quinnipiac will be a tremendous addition to the league, and welcome it to the league family.
“During our very thorough membership review process, it became evident that Quinnipiac is a great fit for our League. “The commitment to excellence and vision expressed by President John Lahey and Director of Athletics Jack McDonald, make it abundantly clear that Quinnipiac is a program with a tremendous future.”
Quinnipiac’s chances of approval were boosted in large part because of plans already in place to build a new on-campus facility. Quinnipiac currently plays home games in a small town rink. The new facility, a dual use building for basketball and hockey, is expected to be completed by 2007.
“Quinnipiac’s overall standing in higher education circles has been widely recognized in recent years and this invitation to join the ECAC Hockey League represents another endorsement of the high quality of both our athletic and academic programs,” said Lahey. “To be considered for ECAC Hockey League membership, the strength of Quinnipiac’s academic programs, our strong commitment to men’s and women’s ice hockey and our plans to build a new Athletic Center were clearly important factors.”
“Quinnipiac is honored to accept the ECAC Hockey League invitation and we look forward to competing for ECAC hockey championships beginning in 2005-06,” McDonald said. “Being invited to play ice hockey — one of our region’s most popular sports — with some of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world is an exciting development for Quinnipiac University.”
“This is obviously an exciting time for the University and our program. Our current players are very excited and from our alumni players I’ve received a lot of calls….This is the next big step,” said men’s heac coach Rand Pecknold. “We are honored to be invited to join the ECAC Hockey League. It is a league that is steeped in tradition and has the highest standard of academics for its student-athletes.”
The Quinnipiac women’s team is also included for entry into the ECAC women’s league. The Bobcats are entering their fourth season at the Division I level.
“Acceptance into the ECAC Hockey League is very exciting and another great step in the development of our women’s ice hockey program. We welcome the opportunity to challenge ourselves in what is arguably the premier conference in the nation,” said women’s head coach Michael Barrett. “As a new program, you try to gain respectability from day one. It’s an uphill climb, but getting into what is arguably the most competitve league in the nation is important for us.”
The men’s team has perenially been near the top of the MAAC/Atlantic Hockey standings, and advanced to the NCAA tournament in 2002 by winning the MAAC postseason championship.
Despite the loss of a top program, Atlantic Hockey is relatively stable for the time being, and is still hoping to add schools such as Navy and Rhode Island in the future, assuming those programs ever create a varsity Division I program.