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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Club Hockey making the jump to DII

Photo by Wire Stock Photo
Captain Brian Kennedy said the move to DII will help the program grow.

Club hockey is about to get a lot more intense.

Marquette and the North Collegiate Hockey League announced in late December that the Golden Eagles will make the jump to DII next year after spending five seasons playing in DIII.

The team remains in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, but are moving up in the hierarchy and quality of play by joining the NCHL. The Golden Eagles previously played DII in 2010 when head coach Will Jurgensen was a player, but Jurgensen admitted the club was not quite ready for that level of competition.

The Golden Eagles current division, the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association, also has a DII division, but they decided Marquette wasn’t ready for an immediate jump. The MACHA voted Marquette could only be a probationary DII team for next season, meaning they could compete with DII teams but could not qualify for the conference championship.

Earlier this season, Marquette was contacted by the NCHL’s commissioner Tom Breunig about joining their league, making a switch in division look like the right choice.

“We were very disappointed that (the MACHA) listed us as a probationary team because we thought we were better than that,” Jurgensen said. “The fact that the NCHL, a great league, already wanted us meant we were gone.”

Marquette’s tradition of winning fits nicely into our landscape. They are a strong program that no team in our league can take lightly.

— Tom Breunig, NCHL Commissioner

“Marquette’s tradition of winning fits nicely into our landscape,” Breunig said. “They are a strong program that no team in our league can take lightly.”

During their five-year stint playing at the DIII level, the club has qualified for nationals once and has three straight trips to regionals. So far this season the team is 3-1 against DII teams, having swept Wisconsin and splitting their series against Illinois. The decision was made by Jurgensen and the players based off their recent success.

“Essentially, we think we are competitive and consistent enough to make that jump and play at the DII level,” Jurgensen said.

The Golden Eagles aren’t the only team making the jump. Aurora and DePaul are also joining the NCHL. The conference plays in the Central Region of the ACHA and will now boast four teams ranked in the top 20 of their region.

Forward Brian Kennedy believes the jump will allow the program to continue to grow.

“We’ll get more recognition and we’ll have to work harder as a team to compete,” Kennedy said.

Jurgensen said the team feels they can compete with anyone at the DII level. At 16-2, most of Marquette’s games this year have been blowouts as the team has 101 goals on the season while only giving up 45. Jurgensen said this will not be the case next year as the level of play will rise.

“We are going to have to start from scratch,” Jurgensen said. “Every weekend is going to be a tough battle, but that’s what the guys want. You want to be in competitive hockey games.”

Some players on the team, like forward Michael Desalvo, did not expect to play DII hockey while at Marquette.

“When I came in I knew we were good, but not this good,” Desalvo said. “I thought we would be a good DII team so it’s a little bit of a surprise, but a good surprise.”

Next year, the team will take on a new role as underdogs. Most teams in the NCHL will not know what to expect from the Golden Eagles. Jurgensen said the focus for next year will be taking on that underdog role and trying to prove themselves.

“It’ll be important for us to put these last few years behind us,” he said. “We have to start over and realize everything is going to be a notch up.”

As a coach, Jurgensen believes part of his job is to lead the program to new heights. Moving to DII is one way he believes he is doing so.

“It’s always about trying to improve. This is just another step in the right direction toward building our program,” Jurgensen said. “We want to get people who want to come to Marquette for a great education and play hockey at a high level.”

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