The Eastern Kentucky University club hockey team will be joining the Southeast Hockey Conference (SECHC), head coach Joel Cormier announced on March 1.
The EKU hockey team will be immediately eligible for conference awards, postseason play and any College Hockey Federation National Tournament automatic bids beginning in 2021-22.
“Similar to EKU Athletics joining the ASUN Conference, EKU hockey joining the SECHC provides Eastern Kentucky University the opportunity to share our story with a rapidly growing, more geographically-diverse audience,” said Cormier in a press release.
EKU hockey came off its fourth winning season in five years in 2019-20. EKU hockey strives to be mindful of the academic balance while providing the same varsity experience to students as a regular NCAA program.
“It is an opportunity to expand our reach and make an impact in areas where we have not traditionally shared EKU's story. Eastern Kentucky University is known as the 'School of Opportunity.' Our membership with the SECHC is an opportunity to raise our club hockey profile, enhance our alumni connections, expand our brand and transform our student experience. And it's an opportunity to join a conference that shares our vision for club sports and college athletes. It makes for another great day for EKU hockey," Cormier said.
EKU hockey practices twice a week. With their new relationship where they now directly report to Matt Roan, vice president of athletics and campus recreation, EKU hockey has access to the same exercise facilities and sport science training staff as the NCAA Division I athletes.
The SECHC Commissioner Justin Bradford said that discussions about EKU joining the SECHC began with conversations that included Cormier and former ACHA South Commissioner Kenny “Sarge” Day.
Bradford said, “Our goal with the SECHC is to continue to grow club hockey programs throughout the southeast and to provide them the support they need to build better programs focused on academics and athletics. EKU hockey has a focus on the value of education in combination with athletics which makes them a fantastic fit.”
Bradford said EKU’s willingness to grow and compete at a top level was a major reason they wanted to add the Colonels to the conference.
“The SECHC is pleased and proud that its vision and the EKU vision for the future of club sports found enough common ground to bring about this partnership. I'm confident that both EKU and the SECHC will be stronger by joining together. EKU's willingness to continue to grow its program played a great role in the SECHC members' decision to extend an invitation to Eastern Kentucky University's hockey club,” Bradford said.
The Southeastern Collegiate Hockey Conference will be in its 14th season in 2021-22.
Cormier said that the move will create new and exciting rivalries with college teams representing the top Power-5 conference brands while striving to protect existing ones. Cormier hopes to make EKU more visible in a new hockey-recruiting footprint, connect with alumni as they travel, compete in destination locations and introduce the team to future Colonels in a growing part of hockey in the country.
“As we evaluated this move, enriching our student's Eastern experience, improving postseason access, continuing our commitment to limit our players’ time away from campus, controlling expenses, enhancing and creating revenue generating opportunities and controlling our future and being ambitious were all considered. EKU and the SECHC are the perfect match in this way,” Cormier said.
Cormier told the Eastern Progress that EKU will host Clemson on Sept. 24. EKU will play at Florida Atlantic University, Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State and compete in a league with many Power-5 brand schools in the newly established College Hockey Federation.