St. Thomas to leave the CCHA for the NCHC

May 15—GRAND FORKS — The National Collegiate Hockey Conference won't be at an odd number of teams for long.

The University of St. Thomas, located in St. Paul, Minn., will join the NCHC in 2026-27, the Herald has learned from multiple sources.

The Tommies currently play in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

They jumped to the Division-I level in 2021-22.

It will be the second addition to the NCHC in two years. Last summer, the league announced Arizona State will join in the fall of 2024.

The NCHC will have nine teams for two years — 2024-25 and 2025-26. It will grow to 10 when the Tommies join in 2026-27.

The NCHC board of directors, which is made up of the league's athletic directors, voted unanimously to add St. Thomas.

"During our annual NCHC meetings in Naples, the athletics directors engaged in robust conversation about the conference's vision and goals in the current NCAA landscape, including membership," NCHC commissioner Heather Weems said. "St. Thomas's institutional vision and commitment to nationally competitive hockey, as well as their central location in our footprint and new facility, make them an ideal fit

The vote was unexpected from the league's coaches, because they were not part of discussions about expansion at the Naples meetings.

St. Thomas is currently constructing a $183.4 million on-campus facility to host hockey and basketball. Lee and Penny Anderson Arena is expected to seat 4,000 for hockey.

It was initially set to open for the 2025-26 season, but construction was recently paused

due to controversy

with the neighbors. It is unclear if that will change the projected opening date.

The Tommies become eligible for the NCAA tournament in 2026-27.

The NCHC was formed in 2013-14 with eight original members — UND, Denver, Colorado College, Omaha, St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth, Miami and Western Michigan.

It has been dominant on the national scene, winning six NCAA national championships in the last eight years.

St. Thomas is coached by Rico Blasi, who was at Miami when the NCHC formed.

East Grand Forks Senior High graduate Mason Poolman just completed his freshman season at St. Thomas. He will be a senior when the Tommies become a member of the NCHC.

The CCHA currently has eight full members — St. Thomas, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State, Ferris State, Michigan Tech and Bowling Green. Augustana is a full voting member but is only playing a partial schedule during its first two years of Division-I hockey — 2023-24 and 2024-25. It will play a full CCHA schedule in 2025-26.

In other sports, St. Thomas is a member of the Summit League along with NCHC members UND, Omaha and Denver.

UND scheduled nonconference games against St. Thomas in 2025-26 (Grand Forks) and 2026-27 (St. Paul). It's unclear how this development will change that agreement.