St. Thomas Men’s hockey
Brandon Woller '17 / University of St. Thomas

St. Thomas Men’s Hockey to Join the NCHC

Tommies become 10th member of conference

The University of St. Thomas Vice President and Director of Athletics Dr. Phil Esten announced May 15 that the Tommies will become the 10th member of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). The Tommies were admitted following a unanimous vote of approval by the NCHC Board of Directors and will begin competition in the NCHC in 2026.

“The NCHC is among the premier conferences in all of college hockey and we are thrilled to announce our membership in 2026. The move aligns with our institutional and athletics trajectory and places the Tommies with the other Summit League hockey-playing members competing in the conference,” Esten said in a statement. “We are enthusiastic about the new strategic opportunities this will bring our university and department as we will bring new rivalries to St. Paul and compete in expanded markets nationally.”

Ella Boerger playing hockey.St. Thomas Athletics

“The NCHC is excited to welcome the University of St. Thomas to our ranks in 2026-27. During our annual NCHC meetings in Naples, the athletics directors engaged in robust conversation about the conference’s vision and goals in the current NCAA landscape, including membership. St. Thomas’ institutional vision and commitment to nationally competitive hockey, as well as their central location in our footprint and new facility, make them an ideal fit,” said NCHC Commissioner Heather Weems. “The window of opportunity arose quickly, and we worked efficiently with our Board of Directors, Athletics Council, and the University of St. Thomas to achieve expansion. I want to thank St. Thomas President Rob Vischer and Vice President and Director of Athletics Phil Esten for their vision and investment in hockey. We expect they will compete well against our current members and only strengthen the depth and quality of the NCHC.”

St. Thomas men’s hockey made the unprecedented leap to Division I in 2021 and quickly made an impact in the college hockey landscape. The Tommies were the most improved team in the nation from 2021-22 to 2022-23 and continued to make strides during the 2023-24 season. This past year, St. Thomas earned its first win over a top-10 ranked opponent, upending future NCHC foe St. Cloud State 5-4 in the season opener. The Tommies also made headlines during the season when junior netminder Jake Sibell (Isanti, Minn. / Cambridge-Isanti) was named a semifinalist for the Mike Richter Award, given annually to the top goalie in Division I hockey. Additionally, St. Thomas hosted its first-ever CCHA playoff competition after finishing runner-up in the regular season standings.

Men's Hockey
The The University of St. Thomas play the University of Minnesota Men’s hockey team at the Xcel Energy Center on October 13, 2023 in St. Paul.
Brandon Woller '17 / University of St. Thomas

The Tommies will continue to play in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association for the next two seasons and will join the NCHC in 2026-27.

“I would like to thank Commissioner Weems, University of Nebraska Omaha Chancellor Joanne Li, and the entire NCHC Board of Directors for the invitation and support as St. Thomas joins one of the most competitive conferences in college hockey,” commented Esten.

Formed in 2011, the NCHC is considered one of the most dominant and competitive conferences in college hockey, producing six national champions since 2016, including 2024 champion Denver. Additionally, at least one NCHC team has qualified for the Frozen Four in nine of the last 10* seasons, with multiple teams qualifying in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2021. In total, NCHC teams have made a combined 14 Frozen Four appearances with 39 NCAA Tournament berths.

*The Frozen Four did not occur in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.