On July 23, 1987, the Alabama Huntsville athletic department called a press conference. The school’s hockey team had just completed a 20-win season – its first in Division II. The university announced that the Chargers hockey team was elevating its program to Division I – effective immediately. The NCAA did not sponsor Division II hockey so the move allowed the school to play against the best competition at the collegiate level with a chance to participate in the NCAA postseason.

The Chargers first opponent in Division I was the Maine Black Bears on October 30, 1987. It was a true test to start this new era as the Black Bears were nationally ranked and coming off a 24-win season that ended in the national tournament. The Chargers put two goals on the scoreboard that evening but it wasn’t enough as Maine defeated the host team 8-2.

The Chargers ended their inaugural Division I season with an 11-18-1 record. The schedule for the 1987-88 season was a mix between Division I and II opponents. It is common for programs to schedule a mix of Division I opponents in the first season at the highest collegiate level. The season saw the team travel to Alaska in December to play a total of four games against Alaska and Alaska Anchorage in six days. The Chargers also faced off against St. Cloud State four times in the month of February. The season ended on a high note with a victory over Queens University of Ontario in the Alabama Face-Off Tournament that the school hosted.

As with all hockey programs, Alabama Huntsville has had its ups and downs throughout the years. The program dropped back down to Division II in 1992 and ended up winning two national championships over Bemidji State in 1996 and 1998. After six seasons in Division II, it was elevated back to Division I in 1998 and then joined its first Division I conference – College Hockey America – in 1999. The Chargers participated in two Division I national tournament games; losing both in 2007 and 2010. Alabama Huntsville was admitted to the WCHA conference in 2013. It was an historic moment for this program. On its own proverbial island, the Chargers hockey team is a one-of-a-kind program in the southern United States. This is a program that has defied the odds and keeps pushing forward.

Its toughest test yet came seven years later. In response to COVID-19, Alabama Huntsville announced in May 2020 that the hockey program would be discontinued. However, the university stated that the program would be reinstated if the community could raise $750,000. Pledges from alumni and the general public surpassed that goal in one week so the program ended up participating in the WCHA for the 2020-21 season. With the majority of teams in the WCHA leaving to create a newly-reformed CCHA for the 2021-22 season, Alabama Huntsville announced on May 5, 2021, that the university was suspending the hockey program. The school officials and the alumni group that helped provide funds the previous season had both agreed to discontinue the program if they were unable to secure a new conference. There is a caveat that the hockey program will be reinstated if a new conference can be secured. If that happens, Alabama Huntsville will not be eligible for conference play for at least one year after receiving an invitation. This leaves the door open for a possible return in 2022-23.

If we’ve learned one thing about college hockey over the past eight seasons, it’s that the conference structure is not set in stone. There have been major conference realignments as well as several new teams that have joined Division I. While it looks almost certain that Alabama Huntsville won’t play hockey in the 2021-22 season, we’re not going to rule anything out regarding its future. A conference invitation could be in its future along with a new lease on life for the Alabama Huntsville Chargers hockey team.

Photo Credit: UAH Magazine, Winter 1988. Archives and Special Collections, M. Louis Salmon Library at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

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The second semifinal game of the 2021 Frozen Four will look familiar to hockey fans. When Massachusetts and Minnesota Duluth drop the puck Thursday night, they’ll be playing against one another for the first time since the most recent championship game in 2019. In that game, UMD blanked UMass 3-0 to earn back-to-back titles. Since there wasn’t a Frozen Four last year, UMD is looking to three-peat while UMass is looking to avenge their loss. In the accompanying photo, Hunter Shepard sprawls out to block a shot from Anthony Del Gaizo to help preserve his seventh shutout of the 2018-19 season. Shepard finished his NCAA career undefeated in the NCAA tournament at 8-0. The upcoming game on Thursday will mark the fourth Frozen Four in a row for UMD and the second in a row for UMass. UMD is looking to become the first three-peat champion since Michigan did so in 1951-53. However, the roles are reversed for this meeting as UMass is the higher seed instead of UMD. If the Bulldogs win, they’ll head back to the championship game looking for the program’s fourth title. If the Minutemen advance, they’ll be looking to win their first championship trophy.

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Boston College and Notre Dame first met on the ice in 1969. In a rivalry that spans multiple decades and conferences, the meeting between the two Catholic schools is referred to as the Holy War on Ice. In 2008, this game’s importance vaulted to a whole new level when the two teams met on the biggest stage: the NCAA Division I men’s championship. It was the first time the two teams met in the NCAA tournament. After a scoreless first period, the Eagles jumped to a 3-0 lead in the second period. Notre Dame answered back with a goal but it wasn’t enough as Boston College added one more in the final period and won the game 4-1. It was Boston College’s third championship at the time. It also marked the first time the Fighting Irish played in the title game. The same two teams were scheduled to meet this weekend in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA tournament but Notre Dame dropped out of the tournament two days prior to the game due to COVID protocols. It would have been the first time the programs met in the NCAA tournament since this championship game in Denver on April 12, 2008.

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On February 11, 2014, UConn earned the program’s first win over a top 10 team when it defeated #9 Providence 3-2. The Tuesday night upset took place at Schneider Arena in Providence, Rhode Island. In the accompanying photo, senior Billy Latta follows the puck in the net after he scores the game-winning goal in the third period. Connecticut senior Matt Grogan set a team record by making an astounding 58 saves throughout the three periods of hockey. These same two teams will meet this weekend in Storrs, Connecticut in the Hockey East Quarterfinals. UConn holds a 2-1 season series lead after a 5-3 win just last week.

In a game that took place nearly three years before the first Beanpot Tournament, Northeastern and Harvard met on the ice on January 16, 1950. Harvard outlasted Northeastern 5-4. It was technically a home game for Harvard even though both teams called Boston Arena their home rink at the time. Harvard would later win the inaugural Beanpot Tournament (then known as the New England Invitational Tournament) between the four Boston teams on December 27, 1952. Northeastern has won the last three Beanpot Tournaments. The 2021 Beanpot championship game would have taken place tonight but the tournament has been cancelled due to COVID. Northeastern will look to make it four in a row in 2022. Despite there only being four teams in the tournament, these two teams have never faced each other in the Beanpot Final.

Photo courtesy of Herb Gallagher, in the Northeastern University Photography records at the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections.

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In the December 30, 2015, installment of the Border War, the Wildcats shut out the Black Bears 7-0. The game was held at the Verizon Wireless Arena (now known as Southern New Hampshire University Arena) in Manchester, New Hampshire. In the photo, Dan Correale’s shot sails past Maine goalie Matt Morris to score the third goal of the opening period. The Wildcats would go on to win the season’s series between the two teams 3-0-1. The next Border War battle is tonight at the Whittemore Center on the New Hampshire campus.