In meetings held this week, the ECAC approved the realignment of two teams currently playing in the ECAC Northeast. Beginning with the 2001-2002 season, St. Michael’s will become a member of the ECAC East, while Tufts will join the NESCAC.
St. Michael’s, the 1998-99 NCAA Division II champion, will play under rules currently in place for St. Anselm, another Division II school playing in the otherwise Division III ECAC East. Both will play a full conference schedule, but will not participate in the ECAC East playoffs. They will instead continue to play in the ECAC Division II playoffs, which were instituted last season.
“It is very exciting for us,” said St. Michael’s athletic director Geri Knortz. “We have had a strong interest into moving into the East for the past three years, and we are pleased that the opportunity was finally presented to us.
“It will be a step up in the level of competition.”
Tufts is a member of the NESCAC in all other sports, so its move to the NESCAC hockey conference had been anticipated since the NESCAC split with the ECAC East after the 1998-99 season.
“Clearly, it is the premier Division III league in the country,” said Tufts coach Brian Murphy about the NESCAC. “The last six National Champions have come from the NESCAC/ECAC East league. We’ll have to adjust quickly, but I think we’ll be able to do it. It’s where we belong and we’re glad it happened.
“We’ll take some lumps from some teams in the short term, but I hope we can contend for one of the seven playoff spots right away. We have some good young players here and we need to continue working hard on and off the ice. We’ll be playing in front of bigger crowds in better rinks, so we’re all very excited about it.”
The addition of Tufts and St. Michael’s will most likely mean a shuffling of travel partners. St. Michael’s is expected to be paired with nearby Norwich, the defending NCAA Division III champion. Norwich is currently paired with Middlebury.
ECAC assistant commissioner Steve Hagwell confirmed that the interlocking schedule between the ECAC and NESCAC will remain unchanged.
“The conferences will retain the scheduling arrangement, with each league having 10 teams for a total of 19 conference games,” said Hagwell. “The standings will be done the same way they are now.”
Each team in the ECAC East and NESCAC play the teams in its own conference plus all teams in the other conference once per season. Home ice is rotated from season to season.