Could the Utica Men’s Hockey Team Be Moving to NCAA’s Division I?
"There are a lot of moving pieces," but, the Utica University Pioneers men's hockey team could soon move to Division I in the NCAA, according to the Commissioner of the Atlantic Hockey Association.
Rumors were swirling about Utica over the weekend as the Division I Atlantic Hockey Championships were held at the Adirondack Bank Center. As the best teams in the AHC were playing on Saturday and Sunday, many fans were wondering if it might be Utica's last season in Division III.
“I can say Utica has expressed an interest in joining (the Atlantic Hockey Association), but the conference has not yet made a decision,” said AHA Commissioner Bob DeGregorio on Wednesday. "A very important meeting is scheduled for this Tuesday. We’ll know a lot more then," he said. Utica head coach Gary Heenan was unable to comment.
A move to Division I would would mean Utica would join the ranks of the best college hockey teams in the country
A move to Division I would would mean Utica would join the ranks of the best college hockey teams in the country, and it would also significantly improve Heenan's ability to recruit top quality talent.
The Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA) became the sixth Division I men's ice hockey conference in 2003. Now in its 19th season of existence in 2021-22, Atlantic Hockey and its members are known throughout the NCAA landscape. "The conference is currently made up of 10 teams spanning a total of five states, reaching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains. Members reside in Colorado (Air Force), Connecticut (Sacred Heart), Massachusetts (American International, Bentley, Holy Cross), New York (Army, Canisius, Niagara, RIT), and Pennsylvania (Mercyhurst)," according to its website.
Several Atlantic Hockey Alums have reached the AHL and 10 have made it to the NHL, including Chris Tanev who is the longest-tenured alum, having spent his entire nine-year career with the Vancouver Canucks.
“The decision will come with a vote by the Board of Directors which is made up of representatives from each of the 10 existing schools in the conference," said DeGregorio. "They’ll decide what’s going to happen, whether or not we expand, and if so, whether the expansion includes just Utica or several schools,” he added. "I’d say by the end of May or early June, we’ll know.”
Utica finished the Division III atop the UCHC with a record of 17-0-1 and 25-3-1 overall. Their season ended in a 2-0 loss to University of New England in the NCAA Division III Quarterfinals. Heenan has been the coach of the Pioneers since its inception in 2001.