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Published July 07, 2011, 03:55 PM

UND to Leave WCHA, Form New League

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association will lose five more members to a new league in two years, a drastic impact on the sport.

By: Associated Press,

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — College hockey is headed toward another conference shakeup.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association will lose five more members to a new league in two years, a drastic impact on the sport first reported by the Grand Forks Herald (http://bit.ly/p80i90 ).

The newspaper, citing multiple unnamed sources, reported on its website Thursday afternoon that Colorado College, Denver, reigning NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota will leave to create a new conference for the 2013-14 season with current Central Collegiate Hockey Association member Miami of Ohio.

The landscape of college hockey was already significantly altered this year when the Big Ten announced the plan to form a hockey conference in two seasons, taking Minnesota and Wisconsin from the 50-year-old league to play with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State of the CCHA and the startup program at Penn State.

The Herald also reported that the new league, which could also include Notre Dame, is expected to be formally announced next Wednesday. The new league would leave the WCHA with only five teams, Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State in Mankato and St. Cloud State, none of which has the revenue-producing power or rich tradition of programs like Denver, Minnesota or North Dakota.

The new league would also leave the CCHA in the same position, with perhaps as few as five teams — and none of the marquee programs — remaining if Notre Dame and another school decide to leave and give the new league eight teams.

The Omaha World-Herald also reported the formation of the new league, citing an unnamed source (http://bit.ly/qObSXg ).

"We are aware of rumors but have seen nothing officially released yet," WCHA spokesman Doug Spencer told The Associated Press in an e-mail. "Until that time, and until the league feels it is appropriate, the WCHA will reserve comment."

Officials from the five remaining WCHA schools are expected to meet next week to discuss their future.

Minnesota State head coach Troy Jutting declined to comment on the reports.

"I don't involve myself with speculation," Jutting said.

North Dakota athletics director Brian Faison declined to comment, through a school spokesman. Minnesota Duluth athletics director Bob Nielson didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.

Denver spokesman Erich Bacher said the university is exploring its options. Head coach George Gwozdecky told the Denver Post Thursday (http://bit.ly/rd5FFQ ) the Pioneers want to be aligned with schools of "like-minded thinking" and operations.

Gwozdecky told the newspaper Denver has been involved in realignment discussions but its intention "is to continue to be a strong partner with the other members of the WCHA while process continues."

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