Wilkes University will add men’s and women’s ice hockey to its list of NCAA Division III varsity sports, President Patrick F. Leahy announced today. An affiliation with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins organization will allow Wilkes to practice and compete at the Toyota SportsPlex at Coal Street Park. Both teams will debut in the 2017-18 academic year.
“Adding men’s and women’s ice hockey to Wilkes University’s NCAA Division III sports roster helps fulfill several strategic initiatives,” Leahy said. “It will attract talented students both nationally and internationally and allow us to work with an outstanding community partner like the Penguins. Their commitment to growing ice hockey in the community ensures Wilkes’ program will be exceptional.”
“The Penguins are looking forward to helping Wilkes University develop a successful and prominent program in Division III hockey,” said Jeff Barrett, chief executive officer, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. “They have been a leader both academically and athletically in Northeast Pennsylvania. Adding Colonels hockey to the Toyota SportsPlex along with other youth programs such as the Junior Pens and Wyoming Seminary teams will allow children in the community to pursue their hockey dreams throughout their formative years and into adulthood.”
“The addition of Wilkes University collegiate hockey to the Toyota SportsPlex is an exciting development for both the facility and the city,” said Tim Evans, chairman, Coal Street Redevelopment Authority. “Wilkes hockey presents yet another way for the Toyota SportsPlex to serve the community as well as promote the growth of the sport in the area.”
“For several reasons I am delighted that Wilkes University has announced the addition of men’s and women’s ice hockey,” said Ken Andrews, MAC executive director. “The MAC places a high priority on offering a wide variety of sports, and Wilkes has been a leader in making that commitment in recent years by funding seven new intercollegiate teams. The MAC has experienced rapid growth in ice hockey as seven new programs (four men’s and three women’s) have been added in the past year.”
The addition of the two ice hockey programs will increase the number of intercollegiate sport offerings at Wilkes to 23. Wilkes will field one of only four NCAA Division III men’s ice hockey programs and one of five women’s programs in Pennsylvania. According to the NCAA, during the 2015-16 season, 76 men’s varsity ice hockey programs and 58 women’s varsity programs competed in Division III.
Wilkes will begin to search for its new men’s head coach and women’s head coach immediately.