Just after USA Hockey came to an agreement with members of its Women's National Team in time for them to play in this year's World Championship in Plymouth, Mich., the University of North Dakota announced that it will be eliminating women's ice hockey as a varsity sport, due to budget cuts.
In a state where hockey is revered, and less than a year
removed from UND's latest men's hockey national championship, it's a shocking move. UND
becomes the first NCAA Division I school to drop women’s hockey since Wayne State
did likewise in 2011.
The Fighting Hawks began play on the women's side in 2002 as
an independent, before joining the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in
2004. Their best outing was in 2012-13 when they finished 26-12-1 overall and
earned the second of two consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, the only two such
bids in program history.
The former Fighting Sioux also posted seven
consecutive winning seasons, including the 2016-17 campaign. In addition, a total of
eight players with UND ties participated in women’s hockey during the 2014 Olympic
Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
According to the Grand Forks Herald, player scholarships
will be honored if they choose to remain enrolled at UND. Transfers should be
allowed to play immediately at other Division I schools, per NCAA rules, as the program is
ceasing to exist.
This past season, the last one for UND as it turns out, saw
the Fighting Hawks finish 16-16-6 overall, and fourth in the WCHA with an
11-12-5-3 mark before they fell to Wisconsin in a WCHA semifinal game.