By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This time last year, the Penn State women's ice hockey program had just been added as the 31st sport that Intercollegiate Athletics had to offer. Now, the same team officially has a league to call its home.
College Hockey America Commissioner Robert DeGregorio announced the
addition of the Nittany Lions to the CHA on Tuesday afternoon. Penn State joins
as the fifth team in the league, alongside Mercyhurst, Niagara, Robert Morris
and Syracuse. The team will officially begin play as a member of this
recognized conference in the 2012-2013 season.
DeGregorio noted that he was more than happy to accommodate the Nittany Lions' interest in the CHA.
"We are looking forward to this great relationship, an addition of Penn State to our league, and we feel that it is only going to help make not only College Hockey America, but Penn State's hockey program stronger," said DeGregorio.
Over the past year, the staff and support at Penn State Athletics has been working hard to gear up for the addition of both men's and women's ice hockey as another varsity sport on campus at University Park. Penn State Director of Athletics Tim Curley said that he is especially proud of the work that has been done to advance the newest team at the University, and he is excited to hit the ground running.
"It has been an exciting year for Penn State Ice Hockey and this is one more step towards trying to put our complete program together," said Curley. "We think we've found a great home for our women's ice hockey program and look forward to being competitive in the league and being good members and look forward to the future."
Penn State women's ice hockey head coach Josh Brandwene was also present at the announcement event on Tuesday, and he was equally optimistic about his team's acceptance into a well-known hockey league.
"It's a number of great institutions and great hockey programs that we are going to have the opportunity to compete with right from day one," said Brandwene. "We are very excited about that because we see that absolutely as a net positive and something that's really going to accelerate the growth and development of our program both in the short term and in the long term."
Brandwene was added to the Penn State family in May of this year, and in less than four months with the program he has come to realize that representing the Nittany Lion name means more than meets the eye. He said that by entering into the CHA, his women's ice hockey program and a Penn State affiliation seem even more appealing.
"The message as people come on our campus and experience what Penn State has to offer from an academic perspective and the total student-athlete experience," said Brandwene. "This just adds another dimension and another layer to the experience because the type of student-athlete we are attracting deserves to compete at the highest level possible on day one."
The commissioner said that he hopes to add at least one more team to the CHA, rounding out the league at an even number of six teams to make their group eligible for an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament. Penn State will play each conference opponent four times in a season, and will also have the opportunity to compete in postseason action.
Penn State Athletics and the CHA expressed great enthusiasm for the Nittany Lions and their official entrance into the league. DeGregorio noted that he already has high expectations for Brandwene and his future team.
"A little side bar for Josh [Brandwene], in going back to my meeting with the President, when I was here and wanted to know how long I thought it would be for you to gain success in the league," said DeGregorio. "I think I told him seventh or eighth game into the first season you should be right in first place. No pressure, Josh."