SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The five remaining NCAA Division III women's ice hockey-playing institutions that operated under the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) West banner will wave a new flag beginning in 2017-18 as the Northeast Women's Hockey League (NEWHL).
Tom Cranfield, the senior associate athletic director at Cortland and the president of the NEWHL, made the announcement on Thursday, June 15, indicating the league will begin official operations on July 1.
"This is an exciting opportunity for the growth of women's ice hockey in our region," Cranfieldexplained. "We want to first thank the ECAC for its commitment to women's hockey over the years and appreciate its efforts. The NEWHL will operate under the same bylaws, constitution and operating code that it has followed as the ECAC West; however, we are extremely excited to have Tom Di Camillo take over the administrative responsibilities for the conference."
Di Camillo, the commissioner of the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) and member of the NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship Committee, will assume the commissioner duties of the five-team, single-sport conference.
The conference will consist of the five remaining institutions that comprised the ECAC West – Buffalo State, Cortland, Oswego, Plattsburgh and Potsdam – and will maintain the NCAA automatic qualifier for at least the next two years. The NEWHL will need to add at least two more schools to keep its AQ after the 2018-19 campaign.
"I am extremely excited about the opportunity to lend my experience and expertise to the NEWHL," Di Camillo said. "Our goal is to provide the best possible experience for our student-athletes."
Di Camillo brings a wealth of experience to the position. He has served on the Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship Committee for the past two years and has been the commissioner of the SUNYAC since January of 2014. Previously, he served as the assistant commissioner for the Pacific West Conference; was the executive director of marketing, public relations and fundraising at Central Arizona College, and served as the director of sports information at West Chester University of Pennsylvania for 16 years. He was the president of the College Sports Information Directors of America in 2012.
Although Di Camillo serves as the SUNYAC commissioner, and the five SUNY institutions are full members of the SUNYAC, the NEWHL is a separate entity not affiliated with the conference. The league's website and logo will be unveiled later this summer.
The league's five institutions include some of the strongest Division III women's ice hockey programs in the nation, including Plattsburgh – the most accomplished team in the history of Division III women's ice hockey.
The Cardinals have won four consecutive national titles and six overall since their inception in 2001-02. Also one of the elite teams in the history of the ECAC West, Plattsburgh captured seven conference titles, including the last five in a row.
Head coach Kevin Houle has the second-best winning percentage in the history of NCAA women's ice hockey, boasting a career record of 344-44-23 (.865) across 14 seasons behind the Cardinal bench.
After a long history of club teams throughout the 20th Century, Potsdam established a successful varsity women's hockey program in the late 1970s that competed into the mid-80s. After another club team re-established the program during the 2007-08 season, the Bears joined the NCAA era as a member of the ECAC West the following year.
Since then, Potsdam has routinely reached the postseason and earned multiple all-conference honors. Jordan Ott gave the Bears their first conference and national rookie of the year honors in 2014 and she became the program's first player to reach the professional ranks after signing a contract with the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women's Hockey League in June of 2017.
Oswego's women's ice hockey program was reinstated in 2006 and has been led by Diane Dillon ever since. The Lakers have made the postseason in each of the last seven seasons, highlighted by a program-record 19-win campaign in 2014-15.
In 2016-17, Oswego went 16-8-2 overall and handed then-unanimous No. 1 and reigning national champion Plattsburgh its first loss of the season.
Cortland re-established its women's ice hockey club as an NCAA Division III program for the 2000-01 season after last competing from 1977-82. Head coach Rick Filighera enters his second season behind the bench for the Red Dragons in 2017-18.
Buffalo State's women's hockey program debuted during the 1999-2000 season as an independent team before joining the ECAC West in 2001-02.
The Bengals qualified for the league's playoffs in each of the past four seasons and posted the program's first-ever postseason win this past year by defeating Potsdam 4-0.
The Bengals have turned a corner with back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in school history, going a combined 35-16-2 over the past two years.
The NEWHL schedule will consist of 16 games with each team playing the other teams four times – two times at home and two times away. All games are scheduled for Friday and Saturdays.
The season will culminate in a four-team tournament with the top four teams making the league playoffs in a semifinal and championship format set a week apart. The tournament champion will receive the automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Women's Ice Hockey Championship tournament.