2019 ACHA D1 Expansion


Surprised no ones talking about this yet, but looks like 2019-20 will be a major expansion year for ACHA DI with one independent team (GCU) and 11 others organized into two new conferences.

  1. Aquinas College (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  2. Cleary University (Howell, Mich.)
  3. Concordia University Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  4. Grand Canyon University (Phoenix, Ariz.)
  5. Indiana Tech (Fort Wayne, Ind.)
  6. Lawrence Technological University (Southfield, Mich.)
  7. Lindenwood University-Belleville (Belleville, Ill.)
  8. Maryville University (St. Louis, Mo.)
  9. McKendree University (Lebanon, Ill.)
  10. Midland University (Fremont, Neb.)
  11. Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, Ill.)
  12. Waldorf University (Forest City, Iowa)


I’ll be honest… Why are NIU and a school like Maryville moving up to D1? These are sub-par D2 programs that can barely make the cut there. Just as well, how haven’t any of these lower D1 teams made the move back to D2?


With 12 new programs being admitted in one year, you have to think the ACHA has a new or updated vision for D1. Some programs coming in are NAIA, some are currently D2 and one will be a first year team. The growth of D1 has been slow and steady over the past few years. From the outside, this seemed intentional with most of the new D1 programs having a proven record of stability and success.

My guess on this expansion is the ACHA is looking to continue to expand and establish a strong footprint in the Midwest. It also gives the current D1 programs in the region more options for travel/scheduling.

I would still hope to see strong D2 programs continue to make the jump in the next few years. Programs such as Florida Gulf Coast and Grand Valley have proven themselves at D2.


Yeah, it seems pretty obvious to me that the goal was to establish regional leagues. As far as I can tell the NAIA experiment is being folded back into D1 (not sure what that means for the future of NAIA hockey), some good teams are moving up, and the additional ones are hitching a ride. Definitely curious to see what the 3-5 year plan for ACHA D1 is, because as you mentioned, this is a stark change from the growth that had been seen over the last few years.



I think it makes sense for the NAIA to fold back into D1. If that league was ever going to be seen as legitiimate, it would need to include the top end of ACHA D1, and most of them are NCAA schools so that is not an option. Of the schools moving to D1, I think Aquinas has the best chance for initial success. U of M Dearborn isa already a proven team at this level, and the others will have some growing pains.