Merrimack to field D-I women’s team starting with 2015-16 season

Merrimack announced Thursday that the women’s program’s first varsity season in Hockey East will begin with the 2015-16 season.

Erin Hamlen will be the Warriors’ first head coach.

“We are excited to bring a quality women’s hockey program to Hockey East,” said Merrimack president Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D., in a statement. “This varsity program will allow Merrimack to expand its recruiting efforts and meet the growing student-athlete demand of finding a rigorous academic experience coupled with a competitive and diverse set of athletic offerings.”

“It was a great day for our athletic department when we hired Coach Hamlen this past summer and today’s announcement is equally exciting,” added Merrimack director of athletics Jeremy Gibson. “Merrimack has a rich history in the college hockey world and I am thrilled that with the support of President Chris Hopey, we will be introducing a women’s ice hockey team to a college and community with such strong passion for the sport. I am grateful for the support received from Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna and the representatives of the other schools across the league throughout this process.”

Hamlen, who will coach Merrimack for the first two seasons, is equally elated.

“I am incredibly excited that Merrimack women’s hockey will be a full-fledged, varsity Division I program in 2015-16,” Hamlen said in the news release. “Our staff has made great headway over the past few months and we are confident that our program will be highly successful because of what Merrimack has to offer our student-athletes. We look forward to competing in Hockey East in our inaugural year and appreciate their support as we begin our journey into one of the best leagues in NCAA hockey.”

Hamlen led the University of New England women’s team during its inaugural season in 2012-13 and prior to UNE, Hamlen spent a decade at New Hampshire, helping guide the Wildcats to four straight Hockey East tournament titles, six straight regular-season crowns and two appearances in the Frozen Four.

Hamlen will be joined by assistant coach Brent Hill.

“This is an important day in the history of our Hockey East women’s conference,” Bertagna said in a statement. “We look forward to significant contributions from the Merrimack women, much as their men have for so many years.”