There has been some unfortunate and negative news coming out of the college hockey world in the first month-plus of the season. Here are some story lines that developed recently.
Alabama-Huntsville Drops Program
The southern-most Division I hockey school will cease to exist at the end of this season. One never wants to see a hockey program at any university fall, but if you were to ask any college hockey insider if there were a program to drop amid the cluster of conference realignment, it would be Alabama-Huntsville. They have played the last few seasons as an Independent after College Hockey America dissolved as a conference. No shocking that they will join Wayne State and Findlay as former CHA members that are no longer hockey-playing schools. Being a team without a conference, it became a daunting task to play a strictly non-conference schedule and having a all-but-slim chance of playing postseason hockey. They attempted to join the CCHA when Nebraska-Omaha left but were denied membership. And they were left at the altar again earlier this year when the constant shuffle of teams changing conferences and conferences were being formed.
Hockey in the Sun Belt is a tough sale (just ask the city of Atlanta), but the Charger hockey program is no new kid on the block. They have played hockey at the NCAA level since the 1986-87 season, prior to that they were a club team when the program started in 1979. They played championship-level hockey at the NCAA-II level until 1998 when the NCAA got rid of the Division II level as a whole. The team won the NCAA-II national championship in 1996 and 1998. The University cited finances as a reason to cut the program. With the savings of demoting the team to club status, the money saved will enhance and benefit the other 15 sports in the athletic department.
Northern Michigan Freshman Charged in Bike Thefts
Moving over to the CCHA, five rookie members of the Northern Michigan hockey team were charged with bike thefts earlier this week. According to the Marquette Mining Journal, the five members are both in legal and University disciplinary trouble stemming from a September incident where they were caught with stolen bicycles that belonged to other university students. The players are currently scheduled for jury trials next month in Marquette County District Court on misdemeanor charges involving stolen bicycles.
Each paid 10 percent of a $2,500 bond – and the identified are Dylan Stanley Walchuk, 19, Mitchell Kurtis Jones, 19, Jake Scott Baker, 20, and Eric Brian Walker, 18, all of British Columbia, and Daniel Henry Vandercook Jr., 21, of Farmington Hills, Michigan. Wildcats bench boss Walt Kyle declined comment, but a statement released by Northern Michigan University the five are going through the NMU student discipinary process for university code violations as well as an athletic review committee for disciplinary infractions. Each of the cases is being handled separately, though all five defendants are scheduled for jury trial at 8 a.m Dec. 6. At that time, if one case is ready for jury trial, the others would be rescheduled for other days. They might not be the only ones implicated; the police commented that there are warrant requests on others and are determining whether to act on those.
Facing the most severe charges are Vandercook, Jones and Baker. Each are charged with one count of receiving and concealing stolen property valued greater than $200, but less than $1,000. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine, or three times the property value, whichever is greater.
As for their performance on the ice, Walker and Vandercook have not appeared in a game this season while Walchuk, leads all NMU freshmen in scoring with a goal and four assists. The Wildcats are 14th in this weeks USCHO.com poll and are on the road taking on Ohio State this weekend.
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