The University of Arkansas Men’s Ice Hockey Club has been elevated by the American Collegiate Hockey Association to Division I, its top division.
“We are excited for this next chapter in the life of our program,” said head coach Brian Gallini, who is also a faculty member of the University of Arkansas School of Law. “We owe this accomplishment to the hard work of our players — past and current — alongside the dedication of our coaching staff and support of our tremendous fan base. The future is bright for Razorback hockey.”
The University of Arkansas Hockey Club program also announced that it will join the Western Collegiate Hockey League for the 2015-16 season. This is arguably the strongest conference in the nation at any level of the American Collegiate Hockey Association, with five Western League teams currently boasting a Division I national ranking. The Western League is comprised of Arizona State University (No. 1), the University of Central Oklahoma (No. 2), Oklahoma University (No. 6), the University of Arizona (No. 20), the University of Colorado (No. 22), and Colorado State. The league will also welcome familiar Razorback rival Missouri State to its ranks for the 2015-16 season.
“The WCHL is already the most competitive league in the ACHA DI ranks and it just got tougher with the addition of Arkansas and Missouri State,” said Chris Perry, commissioner of the Western Collegiate Hockey League. “The fact that Arkansas — along with Missouri State — was unanimously accepted into the WCHL speaks volumes about the quality of the Razorback hockey program and the respect they’ve earned throughout all levels of ACHA hockey. Congratulations to Coach Gallini and everyone in the University of Arkansas hockey program.”
Current players are equally excited about the program’s direction. “We’ve been in growth mode for some time in this program,” said co-captain Forest Mudgett, a junior from Denver, Colorado. “It’s a challenging task but this is a rewarding next step.” Assistant captain Ryan Machos, a junior from Fort Worth, Texas, agreed. “It’s eye-opening to actually see the progress that we have made,” he said. “Building on the foundation laid by our former players, the team is very excited to bring its talent to the Division I level.”
The University of Arkansas is the first SEC school to make the move to Division I within the American Collegiate Hockey Association. “We are thrilled to be the first ever SEC school to make this move and build on the University of Arkansas’ rich tradition of providing top-caliber academic and athletic opportunities for its students,” Gallini said. “We look forward to continuing to grow the hockey footprint in Arkansas.” The Hogs also hope to maintain a Division III ACHA hockey team that will continue to compete in the Southeastern Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Since 2009, the Arkansas hockey program has amassed an overall record of 148-45-4, including two trips to the Division III National Tournament and four SECHC conference playoff tournament championships. Building on its historic 2013-14 campaign, the Razorbacks are enjoying continued success this season amid a fierce 37-game regular season schedule. Arkansas currently owns a 17-8-2 record entering the last portion of the season.
“We have a blueprint for success that transcends divisions or levels of play,” said Gallini. “Our best hockey is in front of us, and we are excited to see how truly great our program can become.”