The South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference is on the move. Beginning next season, the SECHC will conduct its annual playoffs the weekend before the ACHA’s DIII Regional Tournament in Pelham, Ala., instead of Huntsville.
(Photo: Martin Sundstedt of Arkansas accepts the 2013 SECHC MVP award from local reporter Audra Martin, formerly an Atlanta Thrashers game day reporter.)
“We voted to move our playoffs from the weekend after regionals to the last weekend that counts for the DIII South regionals,” said Kenny (Sarge) Day, SECHC commissioner.
“We feel moving our playoffs will have a greater impact on the final rankings.” The SECHC’s tournament will be played Feb. 7-9 next season.
In returning to the Pelham Civic Center in suburban Birmingham for the 2014 and 2015 playoffs, the SECHC will enjoy a larger venue (3,000 capacity vs. 1,000) and “the awesome Alabama Frozen Tide volunteers and staff,” according to Day.
“We had great fan turnout all three days in Huntsville and have been treated exceptionally well, but we feel we have outgrown the venue and need to move our conference playoffs to a bigger venue.”
The SECHC will ice the same number of teams next season as in 2012-13, including Mississippi State, which forfeited several games as the season wound down due to a lack of players, but not Louisiana State.
The Bulldogs will compete next season as an “affiliate member,” according to Day. That means SECHC teams are free to schedule games with MSU but are not required to do so.
“It is our desire to help mentor and grow the program,” said Day. “ . . . We feel good about the growth of MSU hockey and will do everything we can to help the program turn around.”
As part of this season’s playoffs, the SECHC staged a round-robin tournament for four southern U18 teams. The SECHC coaches and parents interacted with the players. As a result, MSU had inquiries from 15 players, five of which have applied for admission.
Day said the SECHC will continue to reach out to junior programs and high school leagues and teams to identify athletes headed to Southeastern Conference schools.
As it did this season, Louisiana State will sit out the 2013-14 campaign. Said Day, “They continue to struggle with forming a core group of off-ice volunteers to take care of the required administrative work. They also have issues with ice availability and support from the school.
“So, we will keep working with them and hope to resolve issues and help them to grow a program.”
Without Mississippi State and LSU in its official West Division lineup, the four remaining teams — Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss — will play a six-game SECHC schedule. Day anticipates the return of MSU to full status for the 2014-15 season.
The East Division will continue its eight-game SECHC schedule next season.