Worcester State University announced Tuesday afternoon that women’s hockey will be added as an NCAA Division III sport for the 2021-22 season.
The team will play its home games in downtown Worcester at the Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center, also home to the Worcester State men’s hockey team and will have its own locker room and reserved ice times for games and practices, similar to the men’s hockey team.
The university will begin the process of applying for conference membership in the coming weeks, and is expected to have a full schedule compiled by this summer.
Worcester State men’s team is part of the MASCAC.
Worcester State’s first head coach will be Eliza Kelley, who joins the team after serving as head coach at Becker for the past six seasons. She also served as the NCAA compliance officer at Becker. Prior to Becker, she was a full-time assistant coach at Utica, her alma mater, for four seasons. She graduated from Utica with a Bachelor’s degree in management in 2011, and received her MBA from Utica in 2014.
”We are fortunate to have the opportunity to add varsity women’s ice hockey at Worcester State University,” said Worcester State director of athletics Michael Mudd in a statement. “When I arrived to campus almost seven years ago, one of my goals was to eventually add a varsity women’s ice hockey program to our list of athletic offerings. The sport is growing rapidly in popularity in our region and, with the tremendous academic opportunities that we offer here at Worcester State University, I feel we can create a great program.
“It has taken the collaboration of a lot of people to make this day happen, and for that our athletics department is grateful. We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Cliff Rucker and his facility. In addition, the athletics department is appreciative of the strong support from the Worcester State administration, which shared in the belief that women’s ice hockey would be a tremendous opportunity to showcase our university to a different audience and also to provide a great experience for some outstanding female student-athletes.”
“I am very excited to welcome these outstanding student-athletes to Worcester State University,” added university president Barry Maloney. “Coach Kelley comes to us highly recommended and is a welcome addition to our University. I have no doubt she will do a great job providing a great student-athlete experience for her players and that the team will represent our University in a positive manner.”
Kelley can’t wait to get started.
“I am excited to lead the women’s ice hockey team at Worcester State University,” said Kelley. “First and foremost I would like to thank Michael Mudd, President Maloney, and all other administrators that have played a role in this process. I am continuously impressed and grateful for their support of both bringing women’s hockey to the institution and their faith in my leadership. They have built an extremely competitive athletics department and I am truly confident that women’s ice hockey will find success here as well.
“The City of Worcester is a community that I love and call home. Hockey has deep roots here and I am looking forward to contributing to that legacy at Worcester State. I am thrilled to get to work on building this program.”
Becker will no longer play its home games at the Fidelity Back Worcester Ice Center.
“It is very disappointing to lose Becker College, which has been such a loyal partner to the Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center,” said Worcester Railers HC and Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center owner Cliff Rucker. “I wish their faculty, staff, and students nothing but the best of luck. I am thrilled, however, that Worcester State, another strong founding partner of ours, has the opportunity to add a varsity women’s ice hockey program to their university. Combined with the men’s varsity ice hockey program, Worcester State will create an even stronger relationship with our facility. Hopefully this will afford some of the Becker student-athletes the opportunity to remain in Worcester and compete for the Lancers.”