Rochester Minnesota will play host to the USA Hockey Tier III National Tournament for the third consecutive year this April. A great venue, with great fan support for the local Minnesota Junior Hockey Leagues Ice Hawks will be the stage for the event.
The change this year is that only eight teams will participate. Last year, twelve teams made the trek to Rochester to determine the Nations Champion.
This year only the league champions of the American West Hockey League , Eastern States Hockey League , Eastern Junior Hockey League South, Metropolitan Junior Hockey League, Empire Junior Hockey League, Minnesota Junior Hockey League, North American 3 Hockey League and Northern Pacific Junior leagues will participate.
Absent from the tournament this year are the Eastern Junior Hockey League, and the now defunct Great Lakes Junior Hockey League. In prior years, at large or, “play in” bids were included in the National Tournament. This season, only one champion from each league will be participating.
Returning to the event is the NA3HL. Last season the NA3HL elected to hold its own National Championship and was criticized for doing so by many in the junior hockey community. Loaded with future NAHL talent the NA3HL entry is expected to be one of the favorites entering the tournament.
The American West entry is also expected to be strong, having won the event in 2011. Last years Champion Atlanta Knights of the EJHL South will look to secure a bid to defend their title and currently sit in first place within the tightly contested EJHL South.
Host team the MNJHL Rochester Ice Hawks will seek to secure a league championship and home ice advantage for the tournament while they are expected to receive competition from the Northern Lights, Dells Ducks and Wisconsin Rampage.
League Champions will begin securing their bids roughly a month from now while the National Tournament will kick off with pool play on April 4th, 2013.
TJHN will update this story as events develop.