NC State, UNC will move up to ACHA Division 1 men's hockey ::

NC State, UNC will move up to ACHA Division 1 men’s hockey ::

The NC State and North Carolina men’s hockey programs are expected to be elevated to the highest level of non-NCAA hockey in the United States, the American Collegiate Hockey Association announced on Thursday.

The Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League is exploring the formation of a conference within ACHA Men’s 1 Division that intends to begin play for the 2025-26 season. Four current teams expected to participate include Alabama, Louisville, NC State and UNC.

“The inevitable evolution of ACC Hockey to the most competitive level of ACHA collegiate hockey is absolute proof of the growth of our game in the Southeast,” ACCHL Commissioner Mike Walley said. “With the creation of an M1 Conference in the Southeast, there will now be top tier ACHA hockey in all geographic regions of the country. Specifically, the ACC will provide a conference home to showcase the highest levels of collegiate hockey in the Southeast, and in turn, will inspire an entire new generation of youth hockey players in non-traditional hockey areas who aspire to eventually be rostered on these exceptional university ice hockey teams.”

In the release, the ACHA said the purpose of the ACCHL M1 conference will be to “grow hockey at universities in the Southeast United States that are members of Power Five Conferences and currently do not have an NCAA team.” Future teams must:

  • Be a member of a “Power 5 Conference” with historical and current athletic success
  • Have no NCAA hockey team at its university
  • Be a well-organized and fully developed ACHA program
  • Enjoy widespread fan support

In December of 2023, the UNC Tar Heel Ice Hockey Booster Club released renderings for a future arena to be built at Carraway Village in Chapel Hill, scheduled to be open for the 2026-27 season.

UNC Ice Hockey architectural renderings

In a statement, NC State head coach Tim Healy said, “NC State fans, players, and alumni deserve a hockey program that competes at the highest level possible. This is a big step and an important step for the Icepack.”

“It’s clear that interest in hockey is growing exponentially in the southeast,” UNC head coach Adam Dauda said. “We want to continue to give our fans the highest quality of hockey possible and this jump will allow us to do that.

In February 2023, NC State and UNC played each other at an outdoor game at Carter-Finley Stadium in front of nearly 26,000 fans.