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Atlantic Hockey: Five Biggest Offseason Stories

The Atlantic Hockey Association had two member schools make the 2013 NCAA Tournament for the first time in conference history. Below is a look at the five biggest stories of the 2013 offseason for the Atlantic Hockey Association.

Rochester Institute of Technology remains the only Atlantic Hockey Association member school to make it all the way to the Frozen Four as the Tigers did in 2010.
Rochester Institute of Technology remains the only Atlantic Hockey Association member school to make it all the way to the Frozen Four as the Tigers did in 2010.

1. With the changing landscape in college hockey, the Atlantic Hockey Association is one of just two conferences that will remain unchanged in the 2012-13 season. However, that lack of change will last only until the end of this upcoming hockey season when the University of Connecticut leaves for Hockey East.

The college hockey fraternity is a small one, currently with only 59 Division I hockey schools. Expansion is always a thought among coaches, administrators, fans and media. Most conferences prefer to play with an even number of teams so it is no secret that the Atlantic Hockey Association will look to fill the void left by UConn.

Two schools, Saint Anselm College and the University of Rhode Island, appear to be the likely choice for replacing UConn. URI is currently a successful club team, playing in the American College Hockey Association, the organization that oversees club hockey.

Saint Anselm is a Division II school stuck in between a rock and a hard place in college hockey. There is no championship for Division II with the majority of NCAA schools competing in either Division I or Division III. The Catholic school in Manchester, NH has expressed some interest in joining the Atlantic Hockey Association, and there is likely interest from the league, as well. In other sports the Saint Anselm Hawks play in the Northeast-10, a league that includes American International and Bentley, two current Atlantic Hockey schools.

2. Former Boston College associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh was hired to be the new head coach at UConn. The Huskies, led by Cavanaugh, will only be in the conference for one more season, but it is still a move that could impact the league this year.

Cavanaugh was hired after the school and longtime coach Bruce Marshall parted ways during the season. Assistant coach Dave Berard was named the interim head coach, but the school elected to hire from outside. Cavanaugh brought in Brown assistant coach Mike Souza and former Boston University forward and Connecticut native Joe Pereira to be his two assistants.

3. Two of the Atlantic Hockey league's top coaches received contract extensions this summer. Wayne Wilson has led one of the most dominant teams in the conference since Rochester Institute of Technology joined Atlantic Hockey prior to the 2006-07 season. Wilson, a Bowling Green graduate, has guided the Tigers to a mark of 145-90-30 since joining the conference. RIT remains the lone team from Atlantic Hockey to make it to the Frozen Four, doing so in 2010. Wilson's new contract ensures he will be at the school until at least the end of the 2016-17 season.

Canisius head coach Dave Smith was also rewarded with a contract extension. The Griffins had their most successful season in school history, winning the Atlantic Hockey Association Tournament and earning an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Canisius held a commanding third period lead over Quinnipiac before eventually being overcome by a heavily favored Bobcats squad. Smith's contract, like Wilson's, extends him through the end of the 2016-17 season.

4. Canisius University announced in July that the school would partner with the Buffalo Sabres to build a new facilityin downtown near the canal district. The new facility will be a multi-purpose entertainment center directly across the street from the First Niagara Center, the home arena of the Buffalo Sabres. The rink will seat 1,800 people and be called the HARBORCenter.

5. Niagara junior goaltender Carsen Chubak was the only Atlantic Hockey Association player to forgo eligibility to sign a professional contract. The 2013 Hobey Baker Finalist inked a deal with the Adirondack Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. The Prince Albert, Saskatchewan native led the Purple Eagles to the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008. Dave Burkholder's team made the tournament as an at-large, thanks in large part to Chubak's heroics between the pipes.

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Jeff Cox is a hockey reporter for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.