West Rankings questions

I’m a bit curious…how exactly is it that Williston state college stays as the undisputed number 1 week in week out without actually playing anyone in the acha west? someone please explain why this team (most likely) takes one of two coveted autobids after playing a grand total of 2 acha west division 2 teams. Everyone else in the acha west d2 is out here fighting it out beatin each other. Don’t really care if you’ve played a couple D1 teams and performed…submit an application to D1 and quit wasting everybody’s time at d2. Team may be very good, but I think not actually playing teams in your division and more importantly region should disqualify you from autobid consideration. Atleast prove what you about in two regional games.

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I agree. Right now 6 of the top 7 teams (excluding Williston State) are currently beating each other up in Colorado this week.

All the games this week in CO have been tight, with many OT games and a few upsets. #7 Denver beat #2 UNLV last night. UNLV also lost to Boise St. #5 Northern Colorado is 0-3 so far. Utah State in 3-0.

It should be really interesting when the next ranking comes in next month. A lot of changes, except who is #1.

Bigger question is why are junior colleges allowed to play in the Acha period! Williston State academic requirements are lower then 99% of the 4 year schools. Thus allowing them to have a talented team even if that means players can go drive fork lifts after 2 years of “club hockey”. Williston most likely would be a low 9-13 seed in central, biggest way to hurt em. Don’t schedule them in the future

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No need to play the “most likely” game, Williston would be tied for 5th with Marian if they were in the Central with a rating of 94.02. That’s the beauty of the computer rankings, they are objective. Having said that, looking at the ACHA footprint geographically for Williston State, along with their talent and program level, they should be a school that is pushed/forced to move up to D1 along with Dakota College at Bottineau. That would make for 4 strong teams at the D1 level in North Dakota with Bottineau, Williston, Jamestown, and Minot. Do junior colleges have some advantages that other schools, yes. Do other schools have advantages over junior colleges in North Dakota…yes. There will never be an even playing field in club hockey. That’s what the divisions are for. It’s up to the ACHA to do some analysis and start placing teams where they actually belong, which from the sounds of it, Walley is trying to do. So give it some time.

ACHA rules don’t allow for two-year schools in the D1 level. I thought they were only allowed at the D3 level but maybe D2 changed things.

Williston and Bottineau are juco schools and have played ACHA D1 teams for years to fill out their NJCAA schedules. It looks like Williston is now an official ACHA D2 member but it looks like Dakota College at Bottineau is still an NJCAA Hockey member playing mostly NCAA D3 JV teams, some ACHA D1, and some ACHA D2 teams.

There are some pros and cons to the Junior College teams. Pros- they can get good players who may not qualify academically for ACHA D1, NAIA, or NCAA D3 schools; cost of tuition is cheap; the hockey program is a varsity sport at the school. Some negatives are that Williston and Dakota College are big outliers in the NJCAA Hockey (confined mostly to New York state); so there’s no league competition other than each other; good players turnover in two years compared to 4-5 years at ACHA or NCAA programs; academics are low (good for some players but could turn away others).

Both are well-respected programs that have been around for years, they’re good for the ACHA to have them involved at any level. Also they have the potential to strengthen the West Division, which is more scattered in geography and also the weakest ACHA D2 Division.

Every one of those catch points is very valid with the exception of the last.

To strengthen what may or may not be the weakest acha D2 division, they would need to actually be playing the acha west D2. That is the point I’m trying to make. As far as geography goes, there are 25 other west teams who figure out how to make it work. There are 3 annual showcases the west division hosts. Beehive in Utah, Big Mountain Classic in Colorado and Boise St tourney in Idaho. There is absolutely no excuse for a #1 ranked team to not be at any of those OR otherwise making individual trips to play the other top 10. As long as they adhere to the acha eligibilty standards, I have no qualms with it being a juco, where I do take issue is with them being highly ranked and potentially representing the west division without actually playing anybody in the west.

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This is an interesting debate that has gone on for many years in D2, particularly with FGCU in the Southeast. They are currently ranked #1 in the region with a 17-0-2 record, but have only played two Southeast teams (Miami, OH and Delaware). LU-Belleville plays a fair share of D1 teams, which certainly helps their ranking. The only #1 team that plays a regional D2 schedule for the most part is William Patterson.

With nearly 200 D2 teams across the country, I’m not sure how you fix this, but I’m sure it’s on the ACHA radar. While part of me would want to see the D2 national ranking hold more weight for nationals (similar to D1), the regional ranking format gives far more teams a shot at making the national tournament. I think this has been brought up, but maybe a solution is to do away with autobids and adopt a super regional format?


Your last point as well as the other comments made on this point well taken. I will assure you that the M2 Commissioner, the M2 Regional Commissioner, and I have had several conversations regarding west scheduling, the rankings, ACHA support of the 3 annual showcases (and possibly adding more), and the changing landscape of the west as top teams from each ACHA division move up. BtW, I would be remiss if I did not mention that John Eccles is a class act - he has my respect as well as the Commissioner’s. He has always been a tremendous advocate for the M2 West, and brings many of these issues to our attention well before they are posted on this blog. He fights equally hard for all the teams in his region and articulates the challenges of ACHA hockey in the western states extremely well.

Williston State has everyone’s attention as they entered the ACHA. They are the first of the NCAA JuCo’s to join the ACHA with more to follow: Dakota, Erie, and Hudson Valley have committed to the ACHA next year. The question is where do these teams fit within the ACHA structure, given organization, financial support from their universities, talent on the ice, and geography. Williston has been a tremendous example of the team we might expect in this regard.

The other aspect of your point is the computer rankings. Just as JuCo teams are new the ACHA, the M2 computer ranking is also new to M2 this season. And while we have had relative long term success with M1 in this area, we have experimented with a completely different algorithm for M2. We have identified small significant tweaks that needed to be altered going forward - two with the recording of forfeits and one regarding the AGD.

While I agree completely with the inclusion of ALL top west teams in these showcase tournaments (Jay and I are driving to Miami this weekend where many of the top teams from the Central, SE, and NE will be competing), there are several other issues that might be masked by this posting.

Our vision for the future of the ACHA in a perfect world is to align the teams into their respective divisions based on the competitive talent on the ice, and organization within their institutions. Given the current system of by-laws, members are nearly free to choose where they would like to compete. However, we have made strides in this area in the past two seasons by communicating the benefits, standardizing the rule sets between divisions to remove barriers or add perks (we still have a long way to go here), and finding creative incentives/disincentives to the teams/conferences we believe should move up or down.

The West, to be honest, has taken the lead on this objective: ASU and Utah (M2 West #1 & #2) moving to M1, and Met State and CSU (M3 Pacific #1 and #2) moving to M2. If all regions worked under this model, the ACHA would clearly exhibit mvore parity within the divisions in a very short period of time. Unfortunately, with the West leading in this effort, creates a situation in the near term where the West will be relatively weak wrt the remainder of their divisions as pointed out by sbk.

All that I ask is to give us some time, exhibit some patience, and continue to provide us your feedback. Our goal is to incentivize teams to move to their “appropriate division”. We also have to remove road blocks in our policies that prevent teams that desire to move, but cannot. We have some very creative ideas that we will move forward with in Naples this year to assist to this end, most of which were suggested by other members (one of which just popped by b-man).

One last note. Anyone that has been associated with the ACHA for any period of time, is keenly aware that the landscape changes from year to year. Teams come and go (mostly joining over the past decade or so, which is a good problem to have), coaches in the ACHA have an average life span of three years, and can be the very life blood of the organization, and policies change. There are more than 480 members with at least that many opinions and all looking out for the best interest of their teams. We will make mistakes, missteps and have errors in judgment b/c I’m not one to shy away from experimenting (“He who does not risk cannot win” - John Paul Jones). One team might be aggrieved for the greater good of the ACHA (although I assure you that when/if this occurs, we will make every attempt to make good with that team in other means). And we might not be able to solve every issue within a season, or certainly not immediately. However, the leadership team and coaches out west are solid - these issues as well as several other issues unique to the West/Pacific will be addressed going forward.

As always, thanks for your comments - I learn something with every posting!



As always, your input is well received and much appreciated. Thank you for taking time out to give us an honest, informed explanation. I fully understand these issues are already a topic of discussion between the men and women who have the ability to make changes happen, just playing the voice of the mob.

Sidebar: Eccles really is a solid dude.

On a related note regarding Williston…why are they eligible for Nationals in their first year in the ACHA? This has been a hard rule since I can remember. What makes them so special?



This is actually Williston’s second year as a member. Williston has paid for membership for two years - last year they played a handful of ACHA games. Not special.


If this is their second year in the league why weren’t they ever ranked last year? And as brought up before, why aren’t they battling the rest of the teams in the west like the #2-#8 teams have been doing all season? Doesn’t seem reasonable that they are #1 when the only top 10 team they have played is #5 UNC and it was close game at a 3-1. I get that they play Minot a bunch and other JuCo teams which strengthens their rating, but if they are going to be in the league then they need to be competing against teams in their division and league since those are the teams that they are ranked against.


Williston didn’t care to be ranked if not competing for post season last year.

Otherwise, same points discussed prior. See above.


What’s a bit different from prior years, is the computer rankings take an objective look at the overall body of work versus all ACHA teams. Would Williston be ranked #1 in the West if it was a coaches vote? I’d say probably not, since many West region coaches may not see them play on a regular basis. Although Williston has limited play in their region (similar to FGCU vs Southeast), it’s tough to deny a D2 team that has defeated three top D1 programs (#3 Minot, #14 Jamestown and #16 Midland twice) a spot at Nationals.

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I see. Thanks for the info Sheriff

No one should be denied a spot at nationals. I would throw them in to the regional and let them play Weat teams to get a spot to the national tournament. Next year they should schedule more West teams.

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For what it’s worth (and I may have missed it here), the NJCAA is discontinuing their hockey sponsorship after this season (there’s only 5 teams). So we may or may not see a few more NJCAA schools joining in the not too distant future. Or maybe they go the route of SUNY Canton (which won 15 NJCAA titles before getting out while the gettin’ was good and became a NCAA D-III school 5 years ago).

A lot of well thought out opinions here. I will say on behalf of Williston State, we would love to play more D2 teams. We want to be in the showcases. We were not invited to them this year, but have already been invited/accepted next year.

We have had the North Dakota D2 teams fail to either honor their commitment, or unwilling to travel to Williston to play a game. We would love to travel and play more D2 teams, but if teams are unwilling to make a return trip, it creates issues. In order for us to get any home games, which we have a strong local fan base, we need to schedule teams that will return a home game. Right now that tends to be only M1 teams. If the North Dakota teams would have scheduled us, that would be at least 8 more west game (2 at home each)

I glad others see that there is pros and cons to the JUCO teams. For us, yes admissions are lower, but we are part of the NDUS system, meaning our Core classes are deemed equal to UND. So we do have advantages at front…but we also lose them after 2 years. We tend to be 2-3 years younger than all our opponents. Our captain for the last 2 years starts for Minot. Our captain before him plays for Minot and plays for Team USA. Our starting goalie the last 2 years currently is the starting goalie for #3 ranked team in D1.

Yes we play a lot of D1 teams, but thats also because we wanted to prove we deserved to be D1 in the future…why? The location of D1 teams to us makes it logical sense that we would enter that league one day. Until the rules change and allow that, we are stuck with trying to appease both sides (1 side that really wants us, but the rules wont allow it…and the other that wont travel to play us).

Thanks for noticing Williston though, hopefully we get to meet up!


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