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This Week in Women's D-III

College Hockey:
Wis-Superior chosen as site for Women’s D-III Tournament

The long-awaited announcement of the location of the 2013 NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championship site broke late last week, and the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Wessman Arena was selected as the first pre-determined site hosts in the D-III women’s championship’s 12-year history.

At the beginning of the 2011-12 season, rumblings of a pre-determined site started circulating around the Division III circles after it was listed in the D-III women’s hockey manual produced by the NCAA, and now a full year later, we’ve finally discovered who the host will be.

Wis.-Superior is no stranger to hosting Division III championships, as Wessman Arena has hosted the D-III men’s Frozen Four three times: 1994, 2000, and  2007. The 2007 championship was the only pre-determined site of the three. It was the second year of what has become the norm for D-III men, with establishing pre-determined sites since 2006 to the present year.

“We’re seasoned veterans at this,” said Wis.-Superior Director of Athletics Steve Nelson. “We’ve hosted three men’s NCAA championships at Wessman, and it’s really a rink that has developed over the last 15-20 years.”

Wessman is a 1,500-seat facility with a large grandstand seating on one side of the rink that has undergone some extensive improvements since opening in 1969.

“We have an older facility that has held its age very well,” said Nelson, who also serves as the chair of the Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championship Committee. “We’ve put improvements in since it has opened, and now we have four full varsity locker rooms, with two that are brand new, as well as full athletic training and exercise rooms under the same roof. In the West, we’re one of the few Division III arenas that can host something like this.”

Wis.-Superior hosting will mark just the second time in the 12-year history of the NCAA Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championship that it will be held in the West region. Gustavus Adolphus was the first to host for the West in 2010.

“I think women’s hockey doesn’t get out west as much as the men might sometimes, it’s a great opportunity for us to keep women’s hockey in the forefront and try and really market it,” Nelson said.

Nelson also noted that the rule put in place prior to the 2006-07 season by the D-III Women’s Hockey Championship Committee stating that the Frozen Four had to be held in the opposite region at least once every four years did indeed factor into the decision to give Wis.-Superior the nod.

“That rule is still in place, and it was a factor in the decision to have the tournament in the west this year,” Nelson said. “In this case, we had someone with experience in the West that could host it. In the East, there are a few more schools with more opportunities that could host it.”

Wis.-Superior was chosen over Norwich University and Kreitzberg Arena as the only two institutions to put in bids.

Originally, Nelson noted that the D-III committee was looking hard at trying to combine the D-III championship with the women’s Division I Frozen Four at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minn. However, at the June meetings, the committee discovered that the weekends did not align and the Division I Frozen Four was a week later than the scheduled D-III dates.

“If you can follow where we were going as a committee, we were looking very favorably at the possibility of having the championship with Division I women,” Nelson said. “We had lengthy discussion with them, and then after the June meetings we inadvertently found out our calendars didn’t match up. Therefore, we really had to go back to the drawing board, and the bid process went out in August.”

The Division III men’s championship was also looked at combining with the Division I men’s Frozen Four in 2014 in Philadelphia. The proposal cleared every hurdle but the last one, as it was shot down last Wednesday by the Division III President’s Council.

Since August, only Wis.-Superior and Norwich entertained bids, and although the number of bids was low, Nelson stated it was nice having an option in each geographic region.

“It was nice to have a bid from the East and the West,” Nelson said. “I think both schools are in good light there. The committee is still going to consider pre-determined sites in the future, and I’m willing to bet that if that continues, we’ll be at Norwich real soon. Either institution would have done a great job.”

Another possible scenario that has gained some traction and support from the Division III community was the idea of combining the Division III men’s and women’s championships at one venue. This year, the men’s Division III Frozen Four will be at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y., on the same weekend as the women’s. However, Nelson noted that this possible scenario was never brought up in the discussion on the women’s side.

“The Lake Placid scenario never really came up at this time,” Nelson said. “Which I kind of wish we thought of those things. We didn’t really have that discussion at all though.”

The NCAA’s announcement of Superior as the host for the D-III Women’s Ice Hockey Championship came at the same time the organization also announced 73 other sites as hosts for championships in various sports from 2013 to 2015. Sites were selected for 54 of the 89 championships in 18 sports across all three divisions, with 30 states being represented in the selections.

“It looks like a lot of sports are going in that direction now of having a pre-determined site,” Nelson said. “I’ve been involved the men’s side at Lake Placid and I’ve also had the experience on campus at pre-determined sites. The Division III community puts their arms around these championships. If it was in Lake Placid, it’d be a great event, and if it was in the West or the East it’d be the same thing. There are a lot of good different options out there.”

In previous years, the host institution would not be announced until two weeks, or in some cases even one week, prior to the championship weekend taking place due to it being held on campus sites for the last 11 years and assuring that there would be a host school in the tournament.

“We’re in a fortunate position to have five months to prepare for the championship rather than just the two-week time period or one-week time period that every site has had in previous years,” Nelson said. “Our campus and our community are really excited about having this opportunity. We’re starting next Monday. We have everything secured as far as properties.”

The destination that all 51 Division III teams are vying for has now been finalized. Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy another great season of D-III women’s hockey, and we’ll find out in March which eight teams make the NCAA Tournament field and get one step closer to hoisting the championship trophy in Superior, Wis. on March 15-16, 2013.

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