Bemidji State, UNO joining WCHABemidji State’s 10-year wait proved to be worth it. The Beavers finally gained admission to the powerful Western Collegiate Hockey Association on Friday, ensuring that the first No. 16 seed to reach the NCAA Frozen Four will have a long-term home for a program moved up to Division I in 1999.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Bemidji State’s 10-year wait proved to be worth it.
The Beavers finally gained admission to the powerful Western Collegiate Hockey Association on Friday, ensuring that the first No. 16 seed to reach the NCAA Frozen Four will have a long-term home for a program moved up to Division I in 1999.
The WCHA also admitted the University of Nebraska at Omaha to expand to 12 teams.
“Awful excited, awful happy and awful proud,” WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said in a teleconference. “These two teams really solidify the WCHA.”
UNO had been part of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and Bemidji State was with the College Hockey America league. The four-team CHA was set to disband after next season, and the Beavers were starting to get desperate.
“It’s just kind of like a 200-pound monkey off our back,” coach Tom Serratore said. “It’s a very speical day and I’m very honored.”
It’s been a long climb up the hockey ranks for the school of 5,000 in northern Minnesota. The Beavers won 13 national championships in Division II, III and NAIA before making the jump to Division I.
Last year they burst onto the national scene when they defeated Notre Dame and Cornell in the NCAA tournament to advance to the Frozen Four, where they lost to Miami of Ohio.
The WCHA lifted its long-standing moratorium on expansion in April and said at the time that it needed to find a 12th team to accompany Bemidji State to preserve a balanced schedule.
“Our effort is to help build this program to an elite level,” athletic director Trev Alberts said. “We think an association with a conference like the WCHA will help do that.”
Nebraska-Omaha will have plenty of help making the transition. The program is coached by Dean Blais, who won two national titles at North Dakota from 1994-2004.
“Happy to be back after five years of running all over the country,” said Blais. “My deep down love is the for the WCHA and I’m happy to be back.”