ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alaska Anchorage will not field a men's hockey team this season, likely ending the Seawolves' status as an NCAA Division I program.

Alaska Anchorage notified the Western Collegiate Hockey Association on Friday that it is opting out of this season, part of the university's decision to halt all indoor winter sports due to health risks and protocol restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alaska Anchorage announced earlier this year it plans to drop its men's hockey, men's and women's skiing and women's gymnastics teams to save money.

The Seawolves were supposed to open the season against in-state rival Alaska in Fairbanks on Dec. 4. The WCHA gave member institutions until Nov. 17 to notify the league if they intend to opt out.

Alaska Anchorage's departure leaves the WCHA with nine teams in what could be its final and 70th season. Seven of those schools — Bemidji State, Bowling Green State, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan — will bolt next spring to start the new Central Collegiate Hockey Association.