HAMMOND — Purdue Northwest is only about halfway through its third season of hockey, but the Pride already is making plans to move up another level.
On Monday, PNW announced it will shift from American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 2 to ACHA Division 1 for the 2022-23 season.
The ACHA is one of two major sanctioning bodies for college hockey along with the NCAA. The ACHA has a non-scholarship model and includes a mix of club teams and those with full backing of their school's athletic department.
Purdue Northwest falls into the latter category and has several advantages some other ACHA programs don't. The Pride have a full-time coach in Nick Tomczyk, who has experience in both NCAA — last season he was an assistant for Frozen Four runner-up St. Cloud State — and ACHA programs.
He's excited about the move to ACHA Division 1 and to the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League (GLCHL), which has produced a pair of ACHA national champs in the past decade. Other members are Adrian, Calvin, Davenport, Eastern Michigan, Grand Valley State, Oakland and Western Michigan.
Davenport and Grand Valley State also are PNW league rivals for other sports in the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
"It's huge for the program, huge for the athletic department," Tomczyk said of the affiliation upgrade. "It just really shows the commitment that the university has for its sports teams."
PNW also fields an ACHA Division 3 team, which will remain at that level. Between the two squads, there are around 45 players, a number that is expected to rise with the move to ACHA Division 1.
"We look at the junior hockey clubs across, basically, the Midwest," Tomczyk said. "We're in a really good spot as far as having the resources available to players. It's a good (program) to recruit for."
Purdue Northwest is 9-9 this season with three wins over ACHA Division 1 teams: Western Michigan once and Northern Illinois twice. Its home rink is The Kube, just blocks east of the Hammond campus near the Kennedy Avenue interchange with I-80/94.
But it's an upcoming series at another venue that also is noteworthy. On Dec. 10-11, PNW will host Northern Michigan in a pair of outdoor games at Bulldog Park in Crown Point.
All in all, it's an exciting time for the program, according to PNW athletic director Rick Costello.
"We're just getting started," he said. "We have enrolled a number of student-athletes, the turnout has been good at The Kube."