MEN'S HOCKEY: CCHA officially adds Augustana as league’s 9th member
All of the things that Augustana athletics had on its hockey checklist are now complete, with a coach hired, an arena under construction and Tuesday's announcement that the Vikings will join the CCHA in the fall of 2023.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – New college hockey programs need many things to have the best chance to succeed. Chief among the needs are an arena, a coach and a conference to call their home.
The new college hockey program being developed at Augustana University can check all three of those boxes now, with Tuesday’s announcement of a conference home for the Vikings. The Central Collegiate Hockey Association will be a nine-team league starting in the fall of 2023 when the Vikings begin their inaugural season as a Division I program and as part-time members of the CCHA.
Augustana will play 16 CCHA games in its first two seasons of D-I hockey — two games versus each of the other eight league members — before becoming a full-fledged CCHA member for the 2025-26 season.
It is seemingly a perfect fit, geographically, as Sioux Falls is located within a six-hour bus ride or less from current CCHA members Bemidji State, Minnesota State and St. Thomas.
“The CCHA supports the continued growth of college hockey and are excited to accept Augustana University as our ninth member,” CCHA commissioner Don Lucia said in a statement released by Augustana. “Sioux Falls is a proven hockey community and the commitment Augustana University is making to Division I hockey is impressive. Our members look forward to assisting Augustana University in their transition to college hockey and the CCHA over the next few years.”
The arena part of the checklist is already well underway. Ground was broken for the 3,000-seat Midco Arena in the fall of 2021, and the Vikings are expected to move in prior to their first real college hockey games in the fall of 2023.
The new CCHA held its inaugural season in 2021-22, with Minnesota State winning the league’s regular season and playoff titles, and advancing to the NCAA title game before falling to Denver in the Frozen Four finale. In addition to Augustana and the three Minnesota schools, league members include Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Ferris State, Bowling Green and Lake Superior State.
Augustana hired long-time St. Cloud State and Minnesota assistant coach Garrett Raboin as the program’s first head coach last month.
“We began this academic year with three goals for our hockey program and with this invitation we have now accomplished all three -- finalize the design of Midco Arena, hire a head coach, and find a conference home,” Augustana athletic director Josh Morton said in a statement. “Joining a league that has quickly established itself as a nationally competitive conference means a lot and we look forward to adding to the excellence of the CCHA in 2023 as we bring the highest level of college hockey to Augustana University.”
Augustana will be the first D-I hockey program based in South Dakota, but Sioux Falls has long been regarded as a hockey-centric community with the historic success and support of the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede.