This season the University of Kentucky Hockey Club has been playing as an ACHA Southeast Division II independent team. This comes from the ACHA ruling in the offseason they could not be in the SECHL. The reason was because the other teams were all DIII teams. Though it was not popular, this was a fair move by the ACHA to keep conferences aligned with the divisions they play in. This lead to UK becoming an independent team for the 2018-2019 season, which comes with some pros and cons. In this article I will give some options on possible landing spots for the team next year, along with the possibility of them staying an independent. Before I start I want to make clear that this is in no way stating that any of these conferences have, or have not, reached out to UK, or that I have any inside information. This is completely a hypothetical piece of places UK could fit in with, or have a possibility to.
I will start with staying independent. This option leads to a lot of scheduling possibilities for the team because they are not locked into a conference schedule. So they can play some great and unique matchups. The one drawback is without a conference tournament at the end of the year, it’s harder to land a National invite. This is because they can’t use the conference championship as ammo to land that invite as an independent. They have to hope that someone that is in a conference tournament that UK is fighting with for that National spot doesn’t go far in their tournament to get the end.
All in all, being an independent isn’t a bad spot to be in. But it does make a trip to the National tournament a little harder.
These next two options are conferences that I think the UK Hockey Club could fit in, but could be a little longer of a shot then a couple other conferences I will present later.
Option 1: The MCH (Midwest College Hockey)
This is a new conference that begins play next season. At the moment the MCH has 7 teams, leaving room for more teams to be added in the near future. The major draw to this conference is they are ACHA D1, so this would be a big step up for UK. The one big downfall is that the 7 teams are truly midwest teams. There are four teams in Illinois and one team each in Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri. That is a lot of travel for conference games, and could be the main reason UK would not go to the MCH.
Option 2: WHAC (Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference)
This one is really interesting to me for two reasons. The first being this conference is a NAIA conference that is moving to the ACHA D1. One of the reasons stated is the NAIA doesn’t have a championship for hockey. So moving to a league that does makes a lot of sense. Reason two is they were able to land ACHA power house University of Michigan-Dearborn to join the conference next season when it begins play. Michigan-Dearborn has made the ACHA National Tournament 19 times.
This one, like the MCH, would be a step up for UK to D1 but still travel could be a huge factor for UK being that 6 teams are in the state of Michigan and one in Indiana. So travel could be a drawback. Like the MCH, this will be a seven team conference leaving room for expansion before the league moves to the ACHA next season.
Option 3: TSCHL (Tri-State Collegiate Hockey League)
This option is one I think could be a good possibility for UK. They are ACHA DII, so UK would not have to move up a division. The major draw to the TSCHL is travel, this conference is perfect. There will be 8 teams in it next season, with all the teams being in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. That is very great travel-wise for UK. There are also two natural Kentucky rivals in Louisville and Indiana in the TSCHL. Those would be two fun series.
The one drawback is they are losing two teams after this year, Pittsburg and Cincinnati. Cincinnati is one of the elite teams in DII of the ACHA. Yes the conference will still have really good teams, including Louisville, but losing Cincinnati hurts bad. This hurts the overall strength of schedule and that could hurt the conference champion’s chance of a National invite. Despite that, this could still be a very good spot for UK to land if invited to join.
Option 4: ACCHL (Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League)
This option is the one that gets me the most excited with the possibility of UK possibly joining. Why you ask? I will tell you. This conference has 16 teams, with currently 5 of those teams ( NC State #7, Virginia #10, St Joseph’s #12, Georgetown #16, and George Washington #18) ranked in the ACHA DII SE top 20. Adding UK would bring a 6th ranked team in, giving the conference an amazing strength of schedule for the teams. Travel-wise, the ACCHL wouldn’t be to bad. Thought not as great distance-wise as the TSCHL, but all the teams are in North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the DC area. So it’s still a pretty good travel schedule. Another big plus with the ACCHL, there is already a relationship with UK. Kentucky has played teams from the conference this year and last. So there is some familiarity there. Plus with UNC and Duke there, two natural rivals for UK, making for some exciting series between them.
The one draw back could be the size of the conference. Depending on how the conference does scheduling between all the teams could mean that some of ranked teams miss each other every other year or so. But there would still be a conference tournament to possibly give the chance for these match ups.
The possibility of UK joining here really gets me excited. To me it would be like joining the SEC in football. So many ranked teams makes the schedule strength better, meaning better chances for the teams to make the National Tournament.
These are the four conferences that I have looked at and see possibilities for UK. The two DI conferences may be long shots, but the competition would be amazing, and with the type of players Coach Pergram is bringing in makes me think the step up in division would be a great thing. It would just come down to could the travel be done in a economical way for the program.
The last two conferences I really think are great landing spots for the program, both being great travel-wise for the program. Plus competition would be really good.
We will have to wait to see if UK stays independent or joins a conference, but I know this staff will make the best choice for the program and its ability to continue to grow.
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