When UConn faces off against Dartmouth on Dec. 30, it looks to you as just another out-of-conference game for both sides. However, something more will be on the line. A championship.
“What?” you say, looking at me like I have 15 heads, several of which aren’t even physically attached.
Well, I’ll explain it.
In combat sports such as wrestling, MMA, and boxing, their championships are decided through a belt. The belt-holder faces off against a challenger. If the belt-holder wins or draws, they keep the belt. If not, the challenger wins the belt.
That’s basically what we’re doing here. A traveling belt for women’s college hockey.
So first, let’s explain the starting point. And there are a few I could’ve chosen — the first varsity games, the beginning of the 1997-98 American Women’s College Hockey Alliance season (the predecessor to NCAA women’s hockey), the beginning of NCAA women’s hockey in 2000. But I decided to start with the first bona fide crowned National Champions, the 1998 New Hampshire Wildcats in the AWCHA.
I also decided that for this, shootouts do not matter. They only matter for standings points and don’t mean anything towards Pairwise or such, so I’m firing them into the sun for the purposes of the belt.
Without further ado, here is the lineage of the Women’s College Hockey Championship Belt:
Here are some observations from myself on the belt through my findings:
- The West obviously dominates this, particularly what I’m going to call the “Triumvirate” - Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth, and Wisconsin.
- Here’s something insane for you: New Hampshire lost the belt to Minnesota on March 24, 2006. The belt did not return to a non-WCHA team until 2009 (when Robert Morris managed to snag it from Wisconsin for a single game), and would not return East for any extended period of time until Clarkson’s 2014 national championship.
- This current time is also the only time UConn has ever held the belt.
- Two defunct programs — Niagara and North Dakota — have held the belt. Wayne State and Findlay played for the belt but failed to win it (though Wayne State came close with a couple ties).
- On the flip side, nine current D1 programs (excluding the NEWHA) have never held the belt: Vermont, Holy Cross, Merrimack, Quinnipiac, RIT, Syracuse, Lindenwood, Union, and RPI.
- There’s even a D3 that contested a belt game! The Colby Mules challenged Harvard for the belt on February 7, 1999, but the Crimson, led by Patty Kazmaier Award winner AJ Mleczko, blasted them 11-0.
- The most common location of belt games was Minneapolis, with 151 belt games being played in the city. Madison, Wisconsin, has hosted 102 in second.
- The Minnesota Golden Gophers hold the record for consecutive successful title defenses with 60, lasting from February 24, 2012, to November 16, 2013. Interestingly, they won the belt from North Dakota originally, then lost it to the Fighting Hawks (only to win it back a game later). This run of course includes the Gophers’ 41-0-0 2012-13 season.
- There’s even been a cancelled belt game: Wisconsin was supposed to play at Lindenwood on January 7, 2017, but that game was called off due to carbon monoxide issues at Lindenwood Ice Arena.
- There was also one season where the belt-holder did not contest the NCAA tournament: Mercyhurst in 2002. They took the belt from Brown, then defended it in the Great Lakes Women’s Hockey Association championship game against Findlay, but that league didn’t have an NCAA bid, so they retained it in to the 2002-03 season, where St. Lawrence took it off them.