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Northland College hockey joining WIAC

MADISON--The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) announced Thursday, April 5, that Northland College will be joining the WIAC as an affiliate member in the sports of men's and women's ice hockey effective with the 2019-20 academic year.

With the addition of Northland College, which is located in Ashland, Wis., the WIAC will have six institutions sponsoring men's ice hockey and five institutions sponsoring women's ice hockey to include current conference members UW-Eau Claire, UW-River Falls, UW-Stout (men only), UW-Stevens Point and UW-Superior.

"We are extremely pleased and fortunate to have an institution with the outstanding academic profile and competitive ice hockey programs of Northland College join our conference", said WIAC Commissioner Gary Karner. "The addition of Northland College is an extremely positive development not only for Northland and the WIAC but also for the future of Division III ice hockey in the upper Midwest. The geographical proximity of Northland to the ice hockey playing members of the WIAC will result in significant savings in travel costs as well as a reduction in missed class time for all of the involved institutions."

"We are very excited to have our men's and women's hockey programs join the WIAC, and would like to thank them for this opportunity," Northland athletics director Kim Falkenhagen said. "Not only will this move be positive for hockey in the Midwest, but will geographically help Northland's hockey programs, while considering the student-athlete time management and demands."

The Northland men's program was an inaugural member of the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association (MCHA), where it began play in 1997 and has remained there since, including for the past five seasons following the league's re-branding as the NCHA. The Northland women's program is one of the newer ones in Division III as it commenced play as an independent during the 2016-17 season prior to joining the NCHA for its 2017-18 campaign.

"For our hockey programs and department it's about moving forward," Lumberjacks men's coach Seamus Gregory said. "The WIAC is a power conference in our own backyard, it rekindles rivalries with the Wisconsin schools. We are located on Lake Superior and our fan base is more familiar with the WIAC schools. In moving to the WIAC, we will also play more colleges and universities in Minnesota, limit our travel, and strengthen our recruiting. The NCHA is a great conference, but the WIAC is a far better fit for Northland College Hockey."

Commented Northland College women's ice hockey coach Kelly Rider, "In the last few seasons the WIAC has become a more competitive top to bottom conference on the women's side. In our first two seasons we've played two teams (UW-River Falls and UW-Superior) both years and it's nice to have some familiarity with the conference already. It was great to follow UW-Eau Claire's success this season and there is no reason our program cannot do the same in the near future."

The UWRF men defeated Northland, 2-1, in their only meeting the 2017-18 season while the Falcon women swept the Lumberjills, 5-0 and 7-0,

The WIAC is comprised of eight institutions from the University of Wisconsin System competing at the NCAA Division III level-- UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, UW- Stevens Point, UW-Stout and UW-Whitewater. The conference also has affiliate members in the sports of women's gymnastics (Gustavus Adolphus College, Hamline University, Winona State University) and baseball (Illinois Tech).

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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