CSU hockey gets called up to the big leagues

The CSU hockey team finally got the call up to the big leagues of the American Collegiate Hockey Association after announcing that they will move from the ACHA Division II level they are currently in, to Division I for the 2013-2014 season.

CSU’s move is not within the NCAA Division I level, but the highest division offered for club hockey. Players still do not receive scholarships like NCAA Division I athletes do.

The move up has been a long time coming, as the Rams have spent the last couple years deciding when they would ultimately make it to the top level.

“We weren’t sure if we had the talent before, but the crop of young players we have now is the best I’ve ever seen in my four years here,” captain Paul Jenkins said. “I think those guys will be a great core to move the team forward and turn it Division I.”

CSU has proved that it is ready by continually dominating Division II play year after year.

The Rams never cease to be contenders in the Western Conference, and have made an appearance in every annual national tournament dating back to the ACHA’s 1991 inception.

“Everybody really wanted to give it one more run at winning nationals this year,” assistant coach Ryan Kenney said. “We all understood that moving up was the right thing to do, especially for where we want to take this program.”

The Rams will have to be on point next year because they’ll face the most difficult schedule they’ve ever seen.

CSU will face off against four top-25 ranked teams in the 2013-14 season, including Arizona State University, the No. 1 team in the country.

“I think we’re ready because we played incredibly well against Arizona State down in Tempe this year,” Jenkins said. “It was a lot faster and a lot more fun. Just more entertaining hockey than what we see now in Division II.”

The Rams have come to terms with the challenges they will experience early on, but the team sees the decision as a long term investment for the program.

“The thing that (head coach) Kelly (Newton) sees as the biggest benefit is the aspect of recruiting,” Kenney said. “We will be able to attract the players that we wouldn’t have been able to get in the past. It will be a whole new level of hockey.”

Newton has been the head of CSU hockey for four years, and is looking forward to the upcoming season more than most.

“It is an honor to be accepted into Division I, and specifically the WCHL,” he said in a statement. “The prestige of the schools and quality of the programs will demand ongoing improvements with our own program and team.”