UTICA, N.Y. - Utica College and the Adirondack Bank Center have been selected to host the 2026 NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship, announced by the NCAA, Wednesday.
This will be the second time that the school and its home venue will host a national championship event, also hosting the NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship in 2017.
"It's quite an honor to be selected," said Utica College Director of Physical Education and Athletics, Dave Fontaine. "So many people want to have the opportunity to host the national championship and we have been selected by the NCAA, so we're certainly honored. Any time you host a championship of that caliber, it's special.
"We have one of the best, if not the best venue in all of college hockey. We certainly, I believe, have the best venue in Division III, and I think the NCAA recognized that."
The championship weekend will bring the last four teams standing in the NCAA Tournament to Utica to compete in the national semifinals and final.
Norwich, Trinity, St. Norbert, and Adrian were the participants in 2017 at the Aud, with Norwich topping Trinity in the championship game to win the national title.
"I think we had some good, positive takeaways in 2017 when we hosted," said Fontaine. "I think it's only going to be better experience in 2026, and we had a great experience in 2017, so we are really looking forward to it."
Bidding for championship sites began in August 2018 with more than 3,000 bid applications submitted across multiple sports.
The Aud, previously called one of the top rinks in Division III by U.S. College Hockey Online, is the home of the Pioneers men's and women's ice hockey programs.
The men's team has topped Division III in average attendance for 14 straight years. This past year, the team averaged 3,394 fans per home game, which was more than 1,200 more than any other team in D-III.
"We've got a great venue in the Adirondack Bank Center," said Fontaine. "All of the employees at the Adirondack Bank Center are so supportive and we work so well together, and we are looking forward to another great event in 2026."
The only thing that can make hosting the event better for those involved, would be to have the Pioneers qualify to compete for a national title at their home rink.
UC made the national semifinals in 2013 in Lake Placid, and were set to host an NCAA quarterfinal game with the chance to return to the semifinals this March, before the tournament was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"It would be great, the city would definitely be electric," said Fontaine. "We have a really special team. Coach Gary Heenan has done a great job with the men's hockey program as Dave Clausen has with the women's hockey program. It will give all those student-athletes who are here at that time, and leading up to that time, something to look forward to and to shoot for."