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The Growth of CHS

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By: Russ Eddins

Before College Hockey South, there was the South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference (SECHC). In its 2008-09 inaugural year, the SECHC had eight teams: University of Alabama, University of Arkansas, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Mississippi, University of South Carolina, University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University.


Sixteen years later, CHS is a massive 46-team league with four divisions and talented hockey players from across the nation. 


In recent years, the league has seen massive growth on and off the ice.


“Hockey is continuing to grow in the South, and you can see that specifically within our conference,” said CHS Commissioner Kyle Knell. 


The formation of Division 1 and the Women’s Division has increased the competitiveness and reach of the league.

“This season, we added our first ever D1 and Women’s Divisions. With the addition of D1, we’ve been able to see a lot of parity within the divisions,” said Knell. “Games are closer and getting more and more competitive. More and more student-athletes are realizing that they can continue to play the sport they love at a very competitive level down South.”

CHS Map 2023-24

MyHockeyRankings (MHR) has rankings for Divisions 1, 2 and 3. Across those rankings, MHR has 22 CHS teams ranked at or higher than 20 going into the Spring semester. 


“We are seeing success from the growth of our programs in the national rankings,” said Knell. 


When it comes to the Women’s Division, the Amateur Athletic Union has only 10 teams. Six of these women’s teams play under CHS. Currently, the Women's Division has no rankings because it is a new division in AAU and CHS. 


Within AAU Hockey, there are 16 Division 1 teams. Five of them are in the CHS. 2023-24 is the first season AAU Hockey has supported Division 1 programs. 


Since there are only 16 teams, all of them are ranked. 15 of the 16 teams have at least a .500-point percentage. 


The University of Tampa has had the toughest schedule out of the 16 Division 1 teams. Despite that, they were ranked No. 1 for at least one week in the fall semester. They currently sit at No. 4. 


South Carolina and Georgia are not far behind at No. 6 and No. 8, respectively. 


With a 10-5 win-loss record, Alabama is ranked 13th and the University of Auburn is ranked 14th (9-6-1). 


MHR has 11 CHS Division 2 teams ranked in the top 20. Florida Atlantic University and Florida are the top two teams. 


“It feels great, but we know it’s going to be hard staying there,” said FAU hockey president Doug Randle. “We have a tough schedule coming up and are excited for playoffs.” 


Three of the top five and six of the top 10 are CHS teams. The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Clemson University and Tampa D2 are all in the top 10. 


“It’s hard to look at our schedule and find any easy games, and that’s a good thing that speaks to the caliber of our league and the great job Kyle and the leadership have done,” said UAH head coach Tim Flynn.


Another top-20 team, Vanderbilt, has a 5-13 record. However, because of their demanding schedule and close games against D1 opponents, they are ranked 20th. Vandy has the seventh-hardest schedule in AAU Division 2 hockey.


“Seeing Vanderbilt ranked is a tremendous achievement for our program,” said Vanderbilt head coach Max Mona. “We deliberately chose a challenging D2 schedule to push our limits, facing formidable teams like Tampa, Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama from the D1 level.” 


Nine of the top 10 toughest schedules in D2 belong to CHS teams. Eight of those nine teams are in the top 20. 


Six Division 3 teams represent the CHS in the top 20: University of Miami (No. 1), University of Tennessee (No. 4), Kennesaw State University (No. 5), Florida Southern College (No. 7), Florida State University (No. 10) and University of Alabama (No. 11). 


Miami is benefiting from the hard work they put in this season. The Canes will have a target on their back going into the Spring semester and must work even harder. 


The CHS has grown tremendously on the ice, but where it has separated itself from other leagues is off the ice. 


“From an off-ice perspective, I think this league is second to none. From social media to all the tournaments, special jerseys, et cetera. The CHS does a great job promoting all the teams and giving us opportunities to showcase teams and universities,” said Flynn.


In the upcoming Spring semester, CHS will have seven tournaments (both on and off-ice) and an expanded media team to give teams and players the coverage they deserve.


“It’s inspiring to see programs across the southeast enhancing their presence, from innovative social media strategies to engaging in unique outdoor games. This growth is a testament to the increasing passion for hockey in the region,” said Mona.

ABOUT College Hockey South: Founded in 2008, College Hockey South is a 29-school, 46 team intercollegiate hockey conference spanning seven southeastern U.S. states that competes in AAU College Hockey. College Hockey South is a 501(c)3 not for profit organization.

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