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College Hockey: Everything You Need to Know

Learn more about college hockey from hockey recruiting experts at NCSA.

College ice hockey may not be as revered on a national level in the United States as college football and basketball are, but that's only because its teams are primarily located in the Northeast and Midwest. At many schools in those areas of the country, college hockey is often more popular than college basketball. In fact, two men's college hockey teams – North Dakota and Wisconsin – regularly average more than 10,000 fans per game while women's teams such as Minnesota and Wisconsin draw thousands to their games too

Due to how popular this sport is at Division I hockey colleges, the interest in hockey commitments can be considerable. Student-athletes want to get the best hockey and educational experiences possible and coaches are looking to oversee the best teams possible while also placing a focus on education. As a result, many fans are interested in who the newcomers are expected to be playing for their favorite teams.

A total of 136 schools compete in the NCAA on the men's side while 84 schools sponsor NCAA women's hockey teams. Do note that there is no Division II Championship in either gender - schools that play at that level in other sports compete as Division I hockey colleges and play with the nation's best in this one.

One of the biggest differences between high school hockey and the college game is addressed when answering the question, "How long is a college hockey game?" At the high school level, the three periods are 15 minutes apiece. Conversely, at college ice hockey contests, the periods are 20 minutes in length, the same time periods that are used in professional hockey games. For that reason, it's important to anticipate the higher physical demands in college. However, also be encouraged by the fact that thousands of players transition from hockey prospects to hockey commits to regularly contributing for many of the best college hockey teams.

College ice hockey divisions

Hockey teams who play in the NCAA ranks compete for spots at postseason tournaments such as the NCAA Division I Championship for men or women, and the same is true for Division III hockey colleges. The Division II hockey teams should be the focus for those looking for hockey scholarships as no athletic scholarships are awarded by Division III hockey colleges. However, do still consider those schools as well as they often award a considerable amount of financial aid to go with high-quality hockey experiences.

Also, a small handful of junior colleges sponsor hockey teams while several universities have squads that compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), an organization that oversees non-varsity programs that are often impressively supported by their local communities and student bodies.

Best college hockey teams

Learn more about college hockey recruiting at NCSA

Of course, the simplest way to see who the top teams are in this sport is to check out which ones advanced to the Frozen Fours, this sport's versions of college basketball's Final Fours. However, you can also see which other teams did well in hockey recruiting over the years and are performing at a top level today by checking out national polls such as the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine College Hockey Poll. Another option is to consult the latest RPI rankings of the men's and women's teams; these hockey rankings allow you to see where every college that competes at the top level ranks.

College hockey standings

However, the priority for teams is where they place in the college hockey standings for their respective conferences. The results of these games are the ones that determine their seedings and any byes that they may receive for their conference tournaments as well as have tremendous influences on their abilities to get into the NCAA Tournament and, if they do, what seeds they will receive there.

These are the conferences for NCAA Division I men's college ice hockey teams. Note that Arizona State competes as an independent and is not a member of a conference.

  • Atlantic Hockey
  • Big Ten
  • ECAC
  • Hockey East
  • National Collegiate Hockey Conference
  • Western Collegiate Hockey Association

And these are the conferences that Division I women's college ice hockey squads compete in.

  • College Hockey America
  • ECAC
  • Hockey East
  • New England Women's Hockey Alliance
  • Western Collegiate Hockey Association

College hockey commitments

In order to compile top teams, coaching staffs put a lot of time into garnering top college hockey commitments. However, prior to becoming college hockey commits, these student-athletes were college hockey prospects and college hockey recruits. What are the differences in those terms?

Prospects are comprised of every single person who plays the sport and is eligible to take the next step: playing hockey. Skill level is irrelevant as far as whether somebody is a prospect.

Conversely, once at least one school has contacted that person, he or she is officially involved in the recruiting process. A lot of factors go into if somebody will reach this stage, and much of it is dependent on being proactive, ensuring that the schools know about them and what they can offer.

College hockey commitments are generally the last steps in these processes. This occurs when a student-athlete has decided on where he or she is going to play hockey and has come to an agreement with that school's coaching staff. This can be a verbal commitment, or it can be via the signing of a National Letter of Intent (NLI). The latter is a binding agreement while the former is not. For that reason, either side can change directions prior to the signing of the NLI. Once the NLI is signed, a step that can only be completed during the senior year of high school, the hockey recruiting process is over.

Note that the NLI is only signed in cases where the school is offering one of its hockey scholarships to this player. If he or she will instead be a walk-on player or is headed to a Division III or other non-athletic scholarship school, the only agreements that will ever occur prior to the student-athlete starting classes will be verbal ones.

Learn more about women's college hockey from hockey recruiting experts at NCSA.

College hockey scores and college hockey stats

As you go through the process towards hopefully being one of the college hockey commitments that garners first-hand experience in learning how to play college hockey at a high level, you're going to want to keep up to date on the schools that you're considering. One way to do so is to periodically check out hockey stats and college hockey scores related to them. Some of the best options are courtesy of the NCAA, College Hockey Inc. and CollegeHockeyStats.net.

Also note that when talking with a member of the coaching staff, it's always a plus to be able to speak about recent games that the team has played.

College hockey news

As can be expected given its name, one of the most respected sources for news related to this sport is College Hockey News while Bleacher Report provides up-to-date news as well. For college ice hockey highlights, head to NBC Sports.

Forums can also provide a lot of information, including USCHO.com's interesting women's college hockey forum, while D3boards.com offers interesting conversations on the storylines related to Division III hockey. Of course, do be careful in trusting any information that you read on message boards and check out any provided sources.

College hockey schedules

The seasons for those who play hockey is a long one as the men's campaign starts in the middle of October with the Frozen Four taking place in April while women's college hockey teams start and end their campaigns a few weeks prior to the men's time frame. Top teams in both sports play around 40 games in a season.

Men's college ice hockey history

This sport has a long and storied history, which dates to 1948, when Michigan defeated Dartmouth, 8-4, in the national championship game. That was played at historic Broadmoor Ice Palace in Colorado Springs. The teams that have had the most postseason success over the years are Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin.

Women's college ice hockey history

The first women's hockey tournament to decide a national champion occurred in 2001. Minnesota-Duluth made the 150-mile drive south to Minneapolis and returned home with the trophy after defeating St. Lawrence, 4-2, in the title game at the University of Minnesota's beautiful Mariucci Arena. Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin are the powerhouses in this sport as well.

Hockey camps

One of the best ways to both get more of a feel for what a college environment is like and put yourself in front of coaches who are looking to divvy up their hockey scholarships is by taking part in hockey camps. Additionally, these types of experiences will simply make you an even better hockey player.

Another significant benefit of taking part in ice hockey camps is knowing that the coaching staff that you're working with are in one of the quietest times of the year, especially when compared to the busy October-April playing season.

How to get recruited for college hockey

If you're looking for information on how to get a college hockey scholarship, make sure to thoroughly research the process as early as possible, preferably by the freshman year of high school, and do consider that the competition for college hockey scholarships is high. Just 64 men's teams and 37 women's squads compete for NCAA Division I championships, and many of those don't offer scholarships, including every Ivy League school. However, the latter group does tend to provide significant financial aid packages, so do not dismiss those schools because of their lack of college hockey scholarships. Also consider that the quality of play is high at many of these schools as several them are at or near the top of the college hockey rankings.

Learn more about college hockey scholarships from hockey recruiting experts at NCSA.

One of the most important decisions that you can make is to contact dozens of colleges where you have a realistic chance of playing at. Connected with that, you should also ensure that you receive unbiased, fair assessments of your playing and scholastic abilities to ensure that you end up at a place that is a good fit for you on and off the ice.

How NCSA can help with the hockey recruiting process

Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) has been helping high school athletes make the step to college sports for almost 20 years. Its roots date to the 1980s when CEO Chris Krause, then a linebacker was looking to play college football. He experienced quite a bit of difficulty in navigating the recruiting process and wanted to help ensure that others did not have the same issues. Innovations to help smooth this process for so many have continued to be made in the years that followed, and NCSA uses these developments to continue to strengthen its relationships with coaches and athletes.

The organization has earned many trusted reviews, great media coverages, partnerships and endorsements. Google Reviews has scored it at a rating of 4.9 stars out of a maximum of 5.0 with thousands of reviews.

By taking advantage of what NCSA has to offer, you'll have hundreds of former college student-athletes and coaches behind you, helping you put your best foot forward and find the best fit. About 35,000 coaches are in the NCSA network, and they have viewed NCSA athlete profiles more than 5 million times. As a result of everything that NCSA has done, more than 90 percent of athletic departments have had at least one NCSA student-athlete on its rosters.

If you're looking to become the next person with a great hockey recruiting experience, start your free NCSA profile today and get your recruiting process under way. If you have any questions, make sure to call 866 495-5172.

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