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December 5, 2012

Frederick: WCHA teams: For now, love the league you’re in

— It continues to strike me as a little odd — and maybe even a touch inappropriate — to see tweets and online recaps stemming from the National Collegiate Hockey Conference every weekend.

The conference, which will take away half of the current Western Collegiate Hockey Association teams, doesn’t even begin until next season, yet whoever is in charge of its Twitter account and website makes sure to update folks on how their future teams are doing, even as they finish out their final season in the WCHA (or in the case of two others, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association).

It’s hard to blame the new conference for promoting itself, its teams and any news it’s created between its formation in July of 2011 and when the first league games take place in October of 2013. It’s a startup association with ties to no one other than the eight schools going into it.

But could you imagine the WCHA right now touting up future member Ferris State’s three-point series over Michigan last weekend? Or incoming Alaska’s win over outgoing North Dakota back in October? What about hyping up last weekend’s series between Minnesota State and Bemidji State in Mankato as a battle between future league powers? Or this weekend’s matchup between rivals MSU and Alaska Anchorage.

The folks in Denver and Grand Forks might not like that too much.

Probably best just to play it straight.

The WCHA’s hands are tied, though. The league needs to do a better job of promoting itself for the future, but it can’t do it at the expense of the current season, which looks to be as competitive as any in recent years.

Folks who root for the left-behind teams are still sore about the conference shakeup coming, and it wouldn’t hurt to give them an idea of what’s coming down the road.

For instance, the WCHA has yet to announce its championship location for 2014 and beyond, only hinting that the St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center could be a location every other year, splitting time with another city (the latest rumors include Grand Rapids, Mich., as a possibility).

There also are questions about league offices, officials, broadcasting, scheduling and expansion.

On the ice, we in Mankato are getting a first-hand look this week at how the new WCHA will look.

The Mavericks swept the Beavers last week and will host the Seawolves on Friday and Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center.

Minnesota State is one of only two future WCHA teams with winning records right now. The other is Ferris State, which is ranked No. 16 in the country. The Mavericks, who are on a four-game winning streak that also includes a series sweep over Big Ten-bound Wisconsin (only two of the five Big Ten teams in the WCHA and CCHA have winning records right now), are among the teams getting a few votes.

Even though they sit outside the top 20, the Mavericks, it should be noted, have had a pretty good last month.

For any league.

Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Read his blog at mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com, and follow him on Twitter @puckato.

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