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Hockey hopes fouled for Bemidji, Moorhead
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Minnesota State University Moorhead's Division I hockey dream is on life support.

Western Collegiate Hockey Association commissioner Bruce McLeod said Tuesday that several factors make the Dragons a long shot to gain membership into the league.

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"They certainly would be (a long shot)," McLeod said. "There are quite a few teams I think that are a lot further developed than they are right now. ... They are a long ways away."

McLeod's comments came on the heels of an announcement that the WCHA will look to expand to 12 teams by 2011-12. The league Tuesday indefinitely lifted its moratorium on expansion.

The WCHA took no action on Bemidji (Minn.) State's application for membership during its meeting this week in Florida. However, things looked positive that the Beavers could gain acceptance when the WCHA finds a suitable 12th member.

"Our issue to this point was not BSU and their membership," McLeod said.

"Our issue was more with the number."

MSUM athletic director Doug Peters said Tuesday that the Dragons could not put a team on the ice until 2010-11.

That would leave the Dragons out of the mix for the WCHA due to the league's timetable for expansion.

A program must play a Division I schedule for at least two years to be considered for WCHA membership.

"I need to have some conversations with Mr. McLeod," Peters said. "I can't say for certain that we will apply (to the WCHA) and I can't say for certain that we won't. We're still early in the process. ... I'm not going to rule it out until it's all said and done and they announce who the two (new members) are."

Peters said Tuesday that being rebuffed by the WCHA would not end the Dragons' pursuit of Division I hockey.

"All along, I have said we have to have viable conference affiliation," he said. "Of course, we would like it to be the WCHA. That is what we're shooting for. Everything we have done has been with the WCHA in mind."

If Minnesota State Moorhead is passed over by the WCHA, its only other option currently is the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

But getting into the CCHA would also be an uphill battle due to the geography of the league.

The CCHA includes six teams from Michigan, Notre Dame in Indiana, Ohio State, Nebraska-Omaha, Alaska and Bowling Green in Kentucky.

Peters said he has not talked with CCHA officials.

Alabama-Huntsville, which is looking for a conference after the College Hockey America folded, has applied for CCHA membership.

"We are still moving full speed ahead," Peters said. "I'm not discouraged. I'm respectful of where the WCHA is at. I also know what we can bring to the table."

MSUM has formed an exploratory committee and has started fundraising, Peters said. The exploratory committee will hold its first meeting next week.

McLeod said his goal is to add two members to the WCHA by midsummer. Schools need eight of 10 votes from current WCHA members to get in.

McLeod said MSUM has other issues putting them far down the list of potential members.

"I think they are not doing anything until they have a clear indication of WCHA membership," McLeod said. "I'm not sure we can buy that. And there is the whole issue of institutional support. I think their president has said there would be no institutional funds - everything would have to be fundraising.

"That certainly is a concern with the WCHA."

MSUM President Edna Szymanski has said the school needs to raise at least $10 million for long-term sustainability before starting men's and women's hockey.

McLeod said he has been directed by the WCHA to be more aggressive in searching for a 12th member. The league will seek out and negotiate with potential members instead of going through the traditional application process, McLeod said.

The WCHA has approached or will approach either Nebraska-Omaha or Northern Michigan of the CCHA, said McLeod, who would not provide details.

Bemidji State's acceptance now appears to be a formality. It likely won't take long to find out who else is coming on board.

"I'm very confident we're going to get into the WCHA," Bemidji State men's hockey coach Tom Serratore said.

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