Sunday, January 27, 2013

NCAA College Hockey Update - The University of Alabama-Huntsvile Chargers

In a followup to our recent post about NCAA college hockey and the formation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference and subsequent major reshuffling of conferences, there has been a new development, that being the far-flung, independent program the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, a program already back from the dead when it was announced it was being downgraded from Division I status in October of 2011 by the school's interim president, has not only survived that attempt to kill it off only to survive for the 2012-13 season, but will now live on indefinitely.

UAH Chargers, UAH Chargers

The Chargers, by far the southern-most school in NCAA Division I hockey, saw their previous conference College Hockey America fold at the end of the 2009-10 season after being a member of the tiny conference for 11 seasons, which never numbered more than six schools and saw two of them leave for other conferences and two more schools discontinue their programs.

During it's final season the CHA was down to just four schools. With Bemidji State leaving after finally gaining acceptance into the WCHA to join it's Minnesota neighbors, and Niagara and Robert Morris joining Atlantic Hockey conference, UAH was left standing without a conference when the music stopped.

UAH CHarggers 2010, UAH CHarggers 2010
The 2010 CHA playoff champion Chargers

The Chargers were denied entry into the CCHA, which looked to be a death blow for the program, which dates back as a varsity program to 1985. Still, they pressed on as an independent following the saving of the program by the new school president Dr. Robert Altenkrich in December of 2011.

This season has not been as easy one for the team, required by the difficulties of scheduling to play the majority of it's games on the road, including 12 consecutive from October 19th through November 24th and going 1-11 in those games. In addition, to fill out their schedule, they also have played games against non-Divison I programs such as the club teams from the Universities of Alabama, Vanderbilt and Oklahoma and Division III opponents Finlandia and Adrian, winning all seven of those non-Divsion I contests.

But the Chargers had one more victory to add to their difficult season, their program was spared an all but certain death when they were unanimously accepted as the tenth member of the revamped WCHA for the 2013-14 season, joining Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska-Fairbanks, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State-Mankato and Northern Michigan.

There will be challenges for UAH to be competitive with the long established programs they will be competing against, as well as the always present issues with travel due to their out of the way location, but the other members of the WCHA, who themselves had to have felt shunned when the bigger schools all left them behind when they joined either the Big Ten Hockey Conference or the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, did the right thing and accepted the Chargers into the WCHA.

For more on this story, we recommend the excellent article at the UnitedStatesOfHockey.com.

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