Western Michigan, St. Cloud accept NCHC invites; WCHA ‘disappointed’

Both Western Michigan and St. Cloud State announced Thursday that they have accepted the invitations to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference for the 2013-2014 season, the inaugural year for the NCHC.

The invitations were extended Wednesday and both schools took little time in accepting.

“This is a great day for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference to have these two outstanding institutions accept the invitations to become members of what we believe will be the premier college hockey conference in the United States,” said North Dakota athletic director and conference athletic directors committee spokesman Brian Faison in a press release. “St. Cloud State and Western Michigan will add a great deal to The National and we are very pleased to welcome them.”

The Broncos and Huskies will join Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota when the NCHC begins play for the 2013-2014 season.

“This is a significant day for our hockey program, our university and our community,” said WMU president John Dunn in a statement. “Today’s announcement is another positive demonstration of what is right about Western Michigan University and is a clear indicator of why our university and Kalamazoo are a wonderful place to call home. We are proud to carry the flag for WMU and represent the great State of Michigan in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.”

St. Cloud State is equally as ecstatic.

“St. Cloud State was given the opportunity 22 years ago to join the WCHA,” SCSU coach Bob Motzko said in a statement. “With our league members, we were able to build a program into national prominence and showcase our University throughout the country. We are forever grateful for this opportunity.

“Today, the opportunity to join The National gives us the ability to continue these strong relationships with Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota and to form new partners with Miami and Western Michigan. We are very excited for this challenge and look forward to a new chapter in the history of St. Cloud State hockey.”

The Huskies are the eighth of the current 12 WCHA teams to announce they’re leaving the conference in 2013.

“No question we are all disappointed by this latest announcement, but on behalf of the entire Association, we want to take this time to wish the Huskies and their men’s hockey program all the best in the future,” WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said in a statement. “St. Cloud State has been a valued and productive member of the WCHA.

“But in saying that, we also want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that the Western Collegiate Hockey Association will persevere, soldier on and continue to do things as we always have — in a first-class manner. The eight programs that currently make up the new-look WCHA beginning in 2013-14 — Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska-Fairbanks, Bemidji State, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan — are 100 percent committed to Division I ice hockey and we are looking forward to working together toward a common goal of providing a first-class environment for our product, our student-athletes and our fans and doing what’s right for our sport. Our brand is strong and we intend to build on that.”