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October 06. 2011 2:12AM

Allen Lessels on College Hockey: Notre Dame will join Hockey East for 2013-14 season

DURHAM - The off-season, off-ice news relating to the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team just keeps on coming, from all angles.

On Wednesday in South Bend, Ind., Hockey East and the University of Notre Dame made it official: The Fighting Irish are joining the league for the 2013-14 season.

It was a busy day for hockey news: UNH also announced that the NCAA had accepted its bid and would be hosting the Northeast Regional of the 2013 national tournament at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester; and that WBIN-TV, the Derry-based television station, will be broadcasting six UNH men’s hockey games along with six other events in the 2011-12 season.

Notre Dame becomes the 11th member of Hockey East.

“It’s terrific,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “It’s Notre Dame. It’s great national exposure. The fact that they’ve joined Hockey East says a lot for Hockey East, that a program and university like Notre Dame would make a commitment to Hockey East. As a hockey program, we’re very familiar with them.”

UNH’s season ended last with a 2-1 loss to Notre Dame in the Northeast Regional championship game at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.

The Fighting Irish moved on to the Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn., and lost in the national semifinal game to eventual champion Minnesota-Duluth, 4-3.

Notre Dame, 25-14-5 last year, is No. 1 in the USCHO pre-season poll and No. 2 behind Miami University in the USA Today/USA Magazine poll.

“More tough games,” Umile said. “Things don’t get any easier.”

The Fighting Irish are currently a member of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and made their Hockey East announcement on the ice at their new Compton Family Ice Arena.

College hockey went through a massive transformation and reshuffling of leagues this summer, starting when Penn State announced it was going to play Division I hockey. The formation of a Big Ten hockey league, to start in 2013-14, soon followed and teams began to switch affiliations.

The shuffling is likely not done. For scheduling and league balance purposes, an even number of teams is preferred and Hockey East is likely to add a 12th team before the 2013-14 season begins.

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Umile was also thrilled with the NCAA opting to bring the Regional back to Manchester.

“Attendance here is as good as at any site,” Umile said. “I’m sure they’re excited, knowing UNH and the Verizon put together a terrific Regional. And I know that teams that play here enjoy it.”

It will be the fifth time for the Regional at the Verizon, starting in 2004. Since 2007, the Regional has been held there every other year.

The other regional in the East in 2013 will be in Providence.

The benefit for the Wildcats is that, if they qualify for the NCAA tournament, they are guaranteed a spot in Manchester as the host team.

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The WBIN-TV package begins with a UNH men’s hockey game at the Whittemore Center against UMass-Lowell on Nov. 18.

Five other men’s hockey games will be broadcast, along with two men’s basketball games, two women’s basketball games and two women’s hockey games.

The 12 games will be produced by UNH Wildcat Properties with its partner, Pack Network. WBIN-TV will also carry a UNH magazine-style show, “Inside Wildcat Coutnry” which debuts this Saturday at 2 p.m.

Allen Lessels covers UNH athletics for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at alessels@unionleader.com.

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