College hockey fans in Western Michigan were elated to see that Western Michigan University made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 years last season. The team had a good showing in that tournament, entering as the number three seed, and ended the 2010-2011 season ranked 13th in the nation by the USCHO.com poll and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. Coach Jeff Blashill was also named the National Coach of the Year for the second time by Inside College Hockey.
This season should also be an exciting one for WMU as they face six of the 16 teams from last year’s tournament in their upcoming schedule. As part of this rigorous schedule, this week the Broncos announced that the Western Michigan University hockey team will host the defending national champion University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs the weekend of Jan. 6-7. The last time the Broncos met the Bulldogs was in 2008, when they were swept in Duluth.
The Bulldogs are a non-conference team matchup, as they play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. WMU will also face St. Cloud of the WCHA on Dec. 29-30. Other teams in the WCHA include North Dakota, Denver, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota, Colorado College, Wisconsin, Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Minnesota State, and Michigan Tech.
Other non-conference foes for the Broncos this season include University of Alabama in Huntsville on Oct. 7-8. In their own conference, the CCHA, the Broncos will play Michigan, Miami, and Notre Dame, who were all part of the 16-team NCAA tournament last season. This will represent one of the toughest schedules in years for the WMU hockey squad, and will make for some exciting hockey in Western Michigan this season. The CCHA also consists of Alaska, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan State University, Northern Michigan, and Ohio State. Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State will leave the CCHA after this season to help create a Big Ten Hockey Conference with three other Big Ten teams next season.
WMU opens their regular season against the University of Toronto at L.C. Walker Arena on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. L.C. Walker is the home of the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL. This is a departure from the normal home ice of the Broncos, Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo. The change in venue will provide an opportunity for West Michigan hockey fans to see high-caliber hockey closer to home. This will be the fourth meeting since 1996 between the Broncos and the Varsity Blues. WMU has a record of 3-0 lifetime against the University of Toronto.