Commonwealth Coast Conference to start men’s hockey with 2016-17 season; ECAC members leaving?

The Commonwealth Coast Conference Board of Directors announced Friday that the CCC will begin sponsoring men’s hockey as a championship sport beginning in 2016-17.

The addition of men’s hockey increases the number of CCC championship sports to 16 and marks the first new CCC championship sport since the addition of men’s golf in 2013-14.

“As the CCC chair, I am very excited that we are adding men’s hockey as a varsity sport,” stated Dr. Zorica Pantic, who also serves as Wentworth’s president, in a news release. “This will make the Commonwealth Coast Conference even stronger.”

“The University of New England has 12 sports that are currently part of the Commonwealth Coast Conference and today we add men’s ice hockey,” added UNE president Danielle N. Ripich, Ph.D. “We continue to build on our proud history of athletics while maintaining rigorous academic standards.”

A total of 10 institutions will compete during the inaugural season of CCC men’s hockey, with regular-season play beginning in November 2016 and culminating with the first-ever CCC men’s tournament in March 2017. The CCC men’s hockey champion will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.

Seven current CCC members – Curry, Endicott, Nichols, Salve Regina, University of New England, Wentworth and Western New England – will be joined by Becker, Johnson and Wales and Suffolk, each of which will be joining the CCC as associate members in the sport of men’s ice hockey in 2016-17.

“The addition of men’s ice hockey as the Commonwealth Coast Conference’s 16th championship sport is a proud moment for our conference, each of our full member institutions, and the institutions that will be joining us as our first-ever associate members,” CCC commissioner Gregg Kaye said in a statement. “This exciting decision is a testament to the leadership and engagement of the CCC’s presidents, each of whom is committed to enhancing the role that athletics plays in the student-athlete experience at their institution. By bringing men’s hockey under the CCC umbrella, our conference can ensure that an entirely new group of student-athletes will enjoy the same competitive and championship experiences as so many of their peers have enjoyed in the CCC for more than 30 years.”

Curry, Endicott, Nichols, Salve Regina, Wentworth and Western New England currently compete with Becker, Johnson & Wales and Suffolk as members of the ECAC Northeast Hockey League, while University of New England is a member of the ECAC East.

In a related story, D3hockey.com reported Thursday that members of the ECAC East men’s and women’s conferences will secede and form their own conference.

The men’s league will reportedly have Norwich, Babson, Massachusetts-Boston, Skidmore, New England College, St. Michael’s, Saint Anselm, Castleton and Southern Maine. The women’s league is set to include the aforementioned schools that sponsor women’s programs, in addition to Plymouth State, Nichols, Manhattanville, Holy Cross, Salve Regina and Franklin Pierce.

The D3hockey.com report also states that “because the conference memberships are due to remain intact throughout the transition process, conference officials expect that the new leagues will retain the current automatic NCAA tournament qualifier spots presently held by the ECAC East when play begins. Otherwise, the new conference would be subject to up to a two-year waiting period for automatic qualification and would compete for Pool B bids in the interim.”

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