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UConn will join Hockey East

The University of Connecticut has accepted an invitation to become the 12th member of Hockey East, the region’s top college hockey conference.

The league, which is in the process of adding Notre Dame for 2013, had been looking for a 12th member to ease scheduling problems.

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Commissioner Joe Bertagna said in May that UConn was the target of that search. The school and the league announced Thursday that an invitation had been extended and accepted.

UConn athletic director Warde Manuel called it a historic day for the school.

“We are committed to developing a men’s ice hockey program that can and will perform successfully on the national level and compete for Hockey East and NCAA championships,’’ he said.

UConn currently plays in the Atlantic Hockey Conference, does not offer scholarships, and has a home rink that seats fewer than 2,000 fans on metal bleachers.

UConn will join the league in the 2014-15 season and play its league games at the XL Center in Hartford, which seats more than 15,000 for hockey and is the home of the AHL’s Connecticut Whale. UConn also plays many of its home men’s and women’s basketball games there.

Nonleague games would still be played at the on-campus Freitas Ice Forum, which Manuel has said the school plans to renovate or replace.

UConn said it plans to add 18 scholarships for the hockey team and will add scholarships to existing women’s programs, likely rowing and tennis, to meet federal gender equity requirements.

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