Santa Rosa, California (August 9, 2016): After five seasons in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Division III, the Santa Rosa Junior College Polar Bears announced today they will compete as a Division II squad for the 2016-17 season. SRJC now becomes the only known two-year school to make the division jump.
This announcement comes after a successful push by SRJC General Manager Tom Billeter over the last few years to change the ACHA rule that limited DII participation to four-year universities. He, along with College of the Canyons General Manager Jim Schrage, worked hard to break that DII barrier, successfully petitioning the ACHA rule change in late spring 2016.
According to Billeter, making the switch to DII was something that needed to be done to save the four remaining DIII teams in California. These teams— SRJC, College of the Canyons, Santa Clara University and UC Davis— were limited to few opponents in what Billeter called “practical travel distances.” Most of these teams rarely traveled outside of California, if at all.
“Our program's move to ACHA Division II will allow for tremendous growth potential in all facets of our organization,” Billeter said. “Competition, recruiting, travel and the on-ice product that SRJC offers will all accelerate. These are very exciting times for SRJC players, coaches and fans.”
The division change brings a new slew of competition the Polar Bears will face this season, each with a heighten level of importance. Competing against local DII teams, including longtime foe and Top 15 ranked San Jose State University, increases SRJC’s chance at a National Top 10 ranking. As a DIII team, SRJC rarely saw DIII ranked teams and only played a Top 5 contender once.
With more games against ranked teams, the Polar Bears can expect a return to the ACHA Regional Tournament in 2017. SRJC has not seen ACHA playoff action since its first round loss to Robert Morris University in 2014.
The SRJC Hockey team begins its inaugural ACHA Division II season in October 2016.