St. Thomas today announced its men’s hockey program will join the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) for the conference’s inaugural 2021-22 season, officially giving the Tommies future homes for all 22 of their varsity sports in a historic reclassification to Division I athletics.

The NCAA approved on July 15 a waiver allowing St. Thomas to formally join the Summit League, Pioneer Football League and Women’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The move makes St. Thomas the first Division III athletics program in the modern NCAA era to reclassify straight to Division I.

“St. Thomas not only has an opportunity to extend our visibility across the region, but also to be a part of the CCHA’s reemergence in college hockey,” said St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan.  “Under Don Lucia’s leadership, this conference has a bright future and we are thrilled to be a part of it.”

The CCHA named Lucia, former University of Minnesota hockey coach and two-time national champion, as its commissioner earlier this summer.

“We’re thrilled to receive an invitation from the CCHA, as it’s poised to create one of the most competitive hockey conferences nationally,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Phil Esten. “This gives us an opportunity to create strong regional intraconference rivalries, face off against some of the most storied programs in college hockey, and develop a program that can skate with anyone in the country. Since the first conversation I had with Don Lucia, I believed this a great fit and am grateful we’ll be included in the inaugural year of the new CCHA.”

St. Thomas’ men’s hockey program has won 1,164 games in 96 seasons, the most all-time victories among all Division III hockey teams. The program has made 36 consecutive Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) playoff appearances and 10 trips to the NCAA playoffs in the last 22 years, finishing runner-up twice. The Tommies have won six MIAC regular-season titles in the last nine seasons.

Following their final season in the MIAC, the Tommies will join seven other programs in the 2021-22 season: Bemidji State University, Minnesota State University – Mankato, Northern Michigan University, Michigan Tech, Lake Superior State University, Ferris State University and Bowling Green State University.

“The entire membership of the CCHA is excited to welcome the University of St. Thomas as a member for the 2021-22 inaugural season,” said CCHA Commissioner Don Lucia. “St. Thomas has an outstanding academic and athletic tradition with experienced and proven leadership as they transition to Division I. St. Thomas fits nicely within the CCHA footprint and impressed us all with the level of commitment they have for their hockey program. The CCHA welcomes St. Thomas, the Twin Cities media and hockey fans to our league.”

Read the CCHA’s press release.

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