Western Michigan, St. Cloud State invited to join NCHC

Western Michigan and St. Cloud State have received invitations to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, according to a press release issued Wednesday afternoon.

“After a thorough and deliberate evaluation process, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is delighted to extend invitations to St. Cloud State and Western Michigan to become members of what we believe will be the premier college hockey conference in the United States,” said Brian Faison, director of athletics at North Dakota and spokesperson for the NCHC athletic directors committee, in the press release. “Both universities fit perfectly with the established goals of our conference membership.”

The Kalamazoo Gazette, citing sources, reported earlier Wednesday that the Broncos and Huskies will bring the NCHC to eight teams when the league begins in the 2013-14 season.

Western Michigan also had an offer to join the WCHA, part of an invitation extended to five CCHA schools in August. Alaska, Ferris State and Lake Superior State accepted that offer; Bowling Green has yet to commit despite a 30-day deadline that ends this week.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, has also not announced its intentions for the 2013-14 season, when the Big Ten and NCHC form.

As it stands, the NCHC will consist of charter members Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota, along with Western Michigan and St. Cloud State.

The Big Ten is forming with Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. Notre Dame is frequently linked in media reports to a possible move to the Big Ten in all sports, and a shake-up of the Big East Conference, of which the school is a member in many sports (it is an independent in football), has launched that speculation again.

After losing seven members to the new conferences, the WCHA added Northern Michigan from the CCHA, then offered its invitation to five CCHA schools. It appears that the best it can do now is add four, while also losing St. Cloud State. The latter could be interpreted as somewhat unexpected, given that St. Cloud State was part of the WCHA group that banded together in the aftermath of the original changes.

In July, St. Cloud State president Earl H. Potter III told the St. Cloud Times that the school was expecting to be part of the talks in forming the NCHC. “But as we looked at it we intended to say no,” he told the newspaper then.