The University of Arkansas Men’s Ice Hockey team announced its move to the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) top division. The Razorbacks will make the jump to DI next season and will play in arguably the top conference in the division, the Western Collegiate Hockey League (WCHL).
This move to DI was not an overnight decision. Head Coach Brian Gallini said, “This move has been in the planning stages for several seasons.” During that span, Arkansas has played 19 games against higher-level opponents with 4-15 record. The record doesn’t show how competitive the Razorbacks have been in these games as they continue to improve. This season, Arkansas is 3-5 against D1 competition with decisive victories against Midland University. The Razorbacks have a .860 win percentage during the same time span against DIII opponents.
Playing the top teams in the top division of the ACHA is step that Arkansas is ready to make. Gallini said, “We want to play the best available competition night in and night out. As demonstrated by the fact that every member of the WCHL is ranked at the Division I level, it’s clear that the WCHL provides us with that opportunity. We also anticipate that bringing high quality teams to Fayetteville will positively impact both our fan base and our recruiting.”
The Razorbacks are the first South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference (SECHC) team to make the jump to DI. Gallini said, “Our affiliation with the SECHC has enabled us the opportunity to grow while constantly enjoying the ability to play the other big name SEC schools.”
Although Arkansas is moving up to play in Division 1, the Razorbacks hope to maintain a team to play in the SECHC. “We value our relationships with the other SECHC programs and look forward to continuing many of those rivalries in the future,” Gallini said.
Can we expect the Razorbacks to follow in the footsteps of Arizona State and make the move to NCAA D1 anytime soon? Coach Gallini says, “We cannot control that. Our goal is to put the best possible ACHA Division I product on the ice that we can.”