Men’s and women’s ECAC East leagues now the New England Hockey Conference

Sixteen schools formerly comprising the ECAC East announced a change in name and administration to the league on Friday.

The league will be named the New England Hockey Conference, effective for the 2015-16 season, and will have both a men’s and women’s division.

Both the men’s and women’s teams will remain eligible for automatic bids to the NCAA Division III tournament.

Castleton, New England College, University of New England, Norwich, Massachusetts-Boston, St. Anselm, St. Michael’s and Southern Maine field both men’s and women’s teams.

Babson and Skidmore will have teams on the men’s side, while Franklin Pierce, Holy Cross, Manhattanville, Nichols, Plymouth State and Salve Regina are women’s-only members.

The leagues will share an executive committee comprised of Josh MacArthur, Babson director of athletics and recreation, Al Bean, director of athletics at Southern Maine, Neil Duval, St. Anselm associate director of athletics, and Tony Mariano, director of athletics at Norwich.

“The formation of the New England Hockey Conference is an important step in providing the student-athletes at our institutions with a highly competitive hockey conference and an outstanding championship atmosphere,” Mariano said in a statement. “The NEHC will allow the institutions the autonomy in its future direction with the goal of improving the overall student-athlete experience. It is our desire to make the NEHC the most competitive Division III hockey conference in the country and to be able to recognize and honor the outstanding student-athletes that we have in our league.”

Babson coach Jamie Rice has led the Beavers to two of the last three league tournament titles.

“We are excited that our league remains intact as we prepare for the next chapter as a member of the New England Hockey Conference,” Rice added. “Our league members have consistently proven ourselves as one of the top Division III hockey conferences over the last 15 years, and the ability for all of us to move forward and maintain our intense and respectful rivalries are extremely important. The quality of our conference, the level of play, our student-athletes and tremendous coaches continues to grow, and we are looking forward to continuing the tradition of excellence off and on the ice that we have all established.”

Manhattanville women’s coach David Turco echoed Rice’s comments on the preservation of longstanding rivalries and tradition. The Valiants have won eight league tournament titles, with their latest coming in 2011.

“We are excited that Manhattanville will continue to maintain our longstanding rivalries as a member of the New England Hockey Conference,” Turco said. “We look forward to beginning a new season and once again competing for a conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.”