Sandelin: New Conference to Strengthen UMD's Schedule

By KBJR News 1

July 13, 2011 Updated Jul 13, 2011 at 6:37 PM CDT

Colorado Springs, CO (Northland's NewsCenter) --- Just like that, everything can change.

Wednesday marked the official announcement of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), with UMD as one of its six founding members.

"It's an emotional time," UMD athletic director Bob Nielson said. "It was not a decision that came easy for us."

The Dogs have played in the WCHA for 46 years - since 1965 - and it's a conference former Bulldogs say they enjoyed playing in.

"It's definitely a credible league, and I hate to see it go and how they're breaking it up, but that's how people are running things," former Bulldog forward Justin Fontaine said. "Everyone will have to adapt, and we'll see how the new leagues turn out, better or worse."

"That was it. We couldn't wait to see if we were fortunate enough to play in the WCHA," former UMD goaltender Bob Mason said. "When we made it, it was all that it was cracked up to be. We were playing against Minnesota, Wisconsin, Denver, CC, all these teams were great."

That's the point of the new conference, as well, to schedule more games against strong opponents, as explained by head coaches George Gwozdecky and Scott Sandelin.

"We were facing uncertainty going forward, especially relating to scheduling and recruiting," Denver head men's hockey coach George Gwozdecky said. "The landscape of college hockey is changing, and we're focused on what makes the game better and what enhances hockey for these six institutions."

"It's going to be nice to see the teams in the conference four times," UMD head men's hockey coach Scott Sandelin said, "and enhance those rivalries that are already there, but even more so for our fans."

That said, Sandelin and Nielson both said they look forward to upholding UMD's relationship with WCHA schools like St. Cloud State, Minnesota-Mankato, and Bemidji State.

The schedule of the NCHC is yet to be set, but Sandelin says the Bulldogs will try to play those schools at some point during the season even after the switch.

Notre Dame and Western Michigan are reportedly still weighing their options as to joining the new league, but a decision is expected within the next couple of weeks.

Posted by Zach Schneider