The homeless Atlantic Hockey Championship tournament has finally found a home — at least for one year.
The 2006 Atlantic Hockey tournament will be held at Holy Cross’ Hart Center on March 17 and 18, according to an announcement made by league commissioner Bob DeGregorio on Wednesday. It will mark the third time that Holy Cross has hosted a league hockey championship.
Last year’s tournament became a center of controversy when the league and its members voted to hold the final four at the site of the highest remaining seed. Lame duck member Quinnipiac drew the top seed and hosting rights only to come under fire from league coaches for lack of an adequate facility.
Still, the tournament went on at the Hamden Ice Pavilion, the home of the Bobcats. Mercyhurst defeated the hosts, 3-2 in overtime, in what was Quinnipiac’s final Atlantic Hockey game before departing for the ECACHL.
Once the tournament was over, DeGregorio and his staff said only that they would look for a predetermined site for future championships, and Wednesday’s announcement makes sense to all involved.
“Holy Cross has a great facility for hosting our tournament,” DeGregorio said. “They have hosted many NCAA and conference tournaments in the past and I know they will make the Atlantic Hockey tournament a special event.”
Holy Cross twice hosted the league championship when under the MAAC moniker — the inaugural tournament in 1999 and again, three years later, in 2002. The Crusaders won the 1999 championship while Mercyhurst was victorious in ’02.
The Crusaders will also play host to NCAA Regional action in 2008 and 2010. Those games will be played at the nearby Centrum Centre in Worcester.
The fact that the league has only assigned the tournament to Holy Cross for one year leaves open speculation that it may be seeking a larger venue in the future. DeGregorio said last spring that he had talks of finding a permanent home for the tournament with both the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y., particularly in light of RIT’s impending membership in the league, and the Arena at Harbor Yard, which is smack in the backyard of Sacred Heart in Bridgeport, Conn.
One thing that will not change for 2006 is the single-elimination format for all quarterfinal games. DeGregorio, who was commissioner in Hockey East prior to joining Atlantic Hockey where he experimented with multiple playoff formats, told USCHO last spring that the league would look to possibly expand the quarterfinals to a best two-out-of-three format. Though likely more desirable to the higher seeds, the issues of ice time and associated costs make the potential three-game series a tough sell to athletic directors.
Tickets for the 2006 Atlantic Hockey Championship are available by calling the Holy Cross box office at 508-793-2573 or at any Holy Cross home game. Tickets can also be purchased as part of a Holy Cross season ticket package.