The most populous division in the ACHA may also be the most competitive. Men’s Division II has produced some of the most impressive teams across the entire ACHA over the past decade. Just looking back to the past Oakland and Davenport teams that leapt from DII to DI without a hiccup speaks volumes to the level of play in the Division.
There is plenty to look forward to heading into the 2013-14 season. The primary focus will be if a team from a region other than the Central can claim a National Title. Aside from Florida Gulf Coast University’s 2012 title – won on home ice, no less – the Central region has had a stranglehold on the National Title. Even after Davenport and Oakland’s departure, Grand Valley State and Michigan State have taken up the torch for the nation’s most competitive region.
Grand Valley enters the season as a strong favorite to not only come away with a bid to Nationals from the Central region, but find themselves playing for a title at the end of the tournament. Michigan State’s young squad has some big shoes to fill but the Spartans have never been short on talent in the past.
One darkhorse team that will be worth watching in the Central is Northern Michigan. Not only have the Wildcats recruited well over the past few years, they have an impressive stable of veteran and youthful talent ready to break through and take the next step forward.
Not to be forgotten, the nation’s other three regions aren’t short on talent themselves. FGCU is almost a near guarantee to make waves each season. While 12-13 was something of a down year for the Eagles, they’re always worth keeping track of. In addition, Penn State and Miami (OH) are both impressive organizations who will surely continue their surge this year.
Another underdog pick – although calling this team an underdog is a massive misrepresentation – is Utah State. One of the nation’s more popular team’s – they receive a great deal of press each week – USU found themselves just short of a title berth last season and the writing on the wall might indicate that they’re ready to play in the finals this season. However teams like Weber State, San Jose State and even the high-octane Dallas Baptist represent teams who could serve as speed bumps for Utah State.
Here are my picks for the regional champs this year: Northeast Marist Northeastern UCONN Sacred Heart Southeast Miami (OH) PSU BGSU FGCU Central Northern Michigan GVSU MSU Illinois State West Utah State Weber State ASU Dallas Baptist ACHA Ice Chips is a recurring blog geared towards various on and off-ice topics from around the nation and will work in unison with the ACHA’s social media platforms.