PAUL HARRIS,Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) — Notre Dame is the final Central Collegiate Hockey Association champion.
The Irish, heading to Hockey East for the 2013-14 season, beat Michigan 3-1 on Sunday in the CCHA’s final championship game.
All of the CCHA’s teams have found other conferences to play in next season, making the CCHA’s 42nd season its last.
Michigan, along with Michigan State and Ohio State, will play in the Big Ten.
Northern Michigan, Alaska, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Bowling Green will be in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and Miami of Ohio and Western Michigan will be in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in its inaugural season.
The demise of the CCHA, which along with the Western Collegiate Hockey Association gave college hockey its midwest identity, was caused by the start of Big Ten hockey play next season. That came a few months after Penn State announced it would start a varsity Division I program, which began play this season as an independent.
Penn State was the sixth Big Ten team with a varsity D-I hockey program, along with the CCHA teams and Minnesota and Wisconsin from the WCHA. According to Big Ten rules, six is the minimum number of teams needed for a championship in a sport. The desire for a Big Ten hockey conference was mainly driven by the Big Ten Network’s need for more Big Ten sports programming.
Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said that another reason is the emphasis on the NCAA tournament.
“There was a day that to play here (the CCHA Championship tournament) meant more than playing in the NCAA tournament,” Jackson said. “… Everybody wanted to get to The Joe (Joe Louis Arena, where the conference tournament has been held for over 25 years) and the NCAA tournament was gravy.
“Everybody wants to be like basketball where the NCAA tournament is the only thing. Everybody wants to get to the tournament but …”
Jackson also coached Lake Superior State from 1990-96, winning NCAA titles in 1992 and 1994. Michigan coach Red Berenson took a wait and see attitude about the post-CCHA college hockey world.
“I think it will take a while before the smoke clears,” he said. “It’s the only college hockey conference I’ve coached in. There’s nothing to apologize for and too bad it’s over.”
The CCHA has produced eight NCAA champions, 664 NHL draft choices, seven Hobey Baker winners and 179 All-Americans.
The other Men’s D-1 college hockey conferences are Atlantic Hockey and the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Austin Wuthrich’s goal 29 seconds into the third period broke a 1-all tie and Jeff Costello added an insurance goal with 1:07 left.
Anders Lee also scored for Notre Dame (25-12-3), which got the CCHA’s automatic NCAA tournament bid, and Steven Summerhays stopped 20 shots.
“For us to go out there and win the last CCHA Tournament is very special and something we’ll always remember,” said Lee.
Derek Deblois got the goal for Michigan (18-19-3), which also had its steak of 22 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances snapped. Steve Racine made 30 saves.
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