St. Thomas men’s team moves to Division I, will join new CCHA for 2021-22 season

St. Thomas has a long tradition of on-ice success and will be the CCHA’s eight member in 2020-21 (photo: St. Thomas Athletics).

The CCHA has voted unanimously to welcome St. Thomas as the league’s eighth program beginning with the 2021-22 season.

“On behalf of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, I am pleased to welcome the University of St. Thomas as a new member of our conference,” said Dr. Faith Hensrud, CCHA board of directors chair and Bemidji State president, in a statement. “The University of St. Thomas has an outstanding tradition and a proven commitment to the future. As we set our sights on the CCHA’s first season in 2021-22, we are excited to be adding one of NCAA Division I’s newest members and proud to be part of the growth of college hockey.”

Located in St. Paul, Minn., and founded in 1885, the university will join current Big Ten member Minnesota as the second Division I athletic department in the state of Minnesota. In addition to its membership in the CCHA, the school’s women’s hockey program will join the WCHA.

“The entire membership of the CCHA is excited to welcome the University of St. Thomas as a member for the 2021-2022 inaugural season,” said CCHA commissioner Don Lucia. “St. Thomas has an outstanding academic and athletic tradition with experienced and proven leadership as they transition to Division I. St. Thomas fits nicely within the CCHA footprint and impressed us all with the level of commitment they have for their hockey program. The CCHA welcomes St. Thomas, the Twin Cities media, and hockey fans to our league.”

St. Thomas was a founding member of the MIAC in 1920 and will compete in the league through the 2020-21 academic year.

With 6,173 undergraduate students, St. Thomas will be the first private school to compete in the CCHA since Notre Dame in 2013.

“St. Thomas not only has an opportunity to extend our visibility across the region but also to be a part of the CCHA’s re-emergence in college hockey,” said St. Thomas president Dr. Julie Sullivan. “Under Don Lucia’s leadership, this conference has a bright future and we are thrilled to be a part of it.”

The sixth-oldest men’s hockey program in Division III, the Tommies bring rich history to the CCHA.

St. Thomas holds a 1,167-671-105 (.627) all-time record, the most wins of any program in Division III. Following the 2019-20 season, the Tommies have now compiled 38 consecutive winning seasons. Of those 38 winning seasons, 33 have resulted in a top-two finish in the MIAC standings. More recently, the Tommies have captured six regular-season conference championships in the last nine years.

“We’re thrilled to receive an invitation from the CCHA, as it’s poised to create one of the most competitive hockey conferences nationally,” said St. Thomas VP and director of athletics Dr. Phil Esten. “This gives us an opportunity to create strong regional intra-conference rivalries, face off against some of the most storied programs in college hockey, and develop a program that can skate with anyone in the country. Since the first conversation I had with Don Lucia, I believed this a great fit and am grateful we’ll be included in the inaugural year of the new CCHA.”