New NCHC Rules I Can Live With in 2015-16

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I’ll admit, I’m a staunch traditionalist when it comes to hockey. Obviously I’m in the minority with all the tweaking of rules that is commonplace these days. However, there’s a few recent developments in the NCHC I can live with. First, the most publicized change is related to deciding overtime in the league.

From the NCHC Release:

  • “After being one of just two NCAA hockey conferences to use a shootout the last two seasons, the NCHC will be the first college hockey conference to use a 3-on-3 overtime format to decide the extra point in the standings after a conference game ends in a tie. The experimental rule was approved by the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee in July.”
  • “Beginning in October, if a conference game is still tied after the 5-minute overtime, the two teams will then play a 3-on-3 (plus goalies) 5-minute overtime period for the extra point in the conference standings, keeping all conference games worth three points. The result of the 3-on-3 overtime will not affect the Pair Wise Rankings as the game is still considered a tie. If a team scores during the 3-on-3 overtime, the winning team will receive the extra point for two points in the standings while the losing team will receive the one point for the tie. The final score of the game will still reflect a tie, however.”
  • “If the game is still tied after the 5-minute 3-on-3 overtime period, the game will then go to a sudden death shootout for the extra point, rather than the 3-man shootout that occurred during the NCHC’s first two seasons. Each team will get one shooter, if one shooter scores and the other doesn’t, that team wins the shootout and extra point in the standings (two points total). If both shooters score or neither scores, the shootout will continue with another round until a winner is determined.”
  • “Statistics accumulated during the 3-on-3 overtime period will NOT count in the conference or national statistics.”

Although I’ve been quite consistent in my position that there is nothing wrong with a hard-fought overtime tie, I will yield that it does make sense to have some sort of tiebreaker system in the highly contested NCHC. The 3×3 overtime change could be the ticket to some exciting five minutes of hockey to decide the extra game point and ultimately league standings. And, on Olympic-sized  ice surfaces like Colorado College’s World Arena and St. Cloud State’s Brooks Center it should have fans on the edge of their seats with all that open space on the ice. It’ll involve some interesting coaching strategy in terms of line matchups, positional play and attack/defend coaching philosophy.

On the other hand, the dreaded shoot-out will continue to be in force as a last resort to decide the extra point. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a fan of shootouts and I really think it’s worn out it’s welcome at both the collegiate and professional level.  My biggest beef is that it  turns a team game into an individual competition to decide the outcome. And, even though the result does not count in national statistics or PWR  fans on the losing end of the shootout leave the rink feeling they just lost the game.  It’s my hope the 3 x 3 overtime rule becomes overwhelmingly successful and causes the league to eliminate the shootout altogether..

I spoke with Don Adam the head of NCHC officials during the leagues Media Day and he remarked that as officials they are embracing the new 3×3 change. “Statistically it’s been shown that the games end very quickly in 3×3 play because of the open ice. One mistake on an attack leads to a clear opportunity in the other direction” .  As a result, he felt the shootout will become less of a factor to decide the extra league point. That’s just fine with me.

Adam added that checking from behind and contact with the head will continue to be points of emphasis in 2015-16. Another interesting change this year (promoted by the coaches) is the loosening up on calls for goaltender contact or interference. There will be no change in the protection of the goaltender while he’s in the crease. However, in those instances where the goaltender is not in the crease (or partly out) more contact with the goaltender will be allowed. He indicated “it’ll lead to more goal scoring and that’s what the coaches wanted”.

Two referees have been added to the officiating staff of the NCHC for 2015-16. With the limited number of games in NCAA Hockey Adam advised that it’s impossible for them to  be a training ground for new officials. As such, they’ve added two experienced officials in Mike McCreary and Geno Binda. McCreary has experience in the American Hockey League, ECHL and the  Ontario Hockey League . Binda’s background includes experience for 9 years in the NCAA in Atlantic Hockey and time in the American Hockey League and the East Coast Hockey League.




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