NCAA Hockey: All Leagues should adopt the 4-on-4 O.T.

During their June meetings, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee recommended using a five-minute, four-on-four overtime for breaking ties during regular season games. Previously, if games were tied after regulation, the teams would play a five-minute, five-on-five overtime period. If the game was still tied the after overtime, the game would officially end in a tie.

Three years ago, the NCAA let individual leagues decide if they wanted to use a shootout break ties if the game was still tied after the five-minute overtime.

Last season, the NHL began using the three-on-three format to break regulation ties. Following the NHL’s lead, the NCAA allowed teams to use a three-on-three overtime if the game was still tied after a five-minute overtime. The NCHC was the only league that used this format.

The changes still have to be voted on in July before the new changes can be implemented.

During its meeting June 7-9 in Indianapolis, Indiana, the committee recommended that all NCAA regular-season games be played with an overtime format featuring four-on-four play for five minutes.

If a game still is still tied after the overtime period, the committee also approved an experimental rule in which teams would skate three-on-three for five minutes and then use a sudden-death shootout to determine a winner. Conferences can choose whether or not they want to implement the experimental rule. (NCAA.COM)

Pairwise Tweak?

Jack Eichel Sabres
Former Terriers All-American forward Jack Eichel (Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

There is a much-needed tweak of the Pairwise Ranking and that change could be coming soon. Some have complained about teams being penalized in the Pairwise Ranking for losing during an overtime game. Under a new proposal, teams wouldn’t be penalized as much for a loss in overtime. I think this is a great move and should be approved by the membership.

In developing the proposal, the committee met with conference commissioners as well as the four NCAA hockey championship committees that were meeting at the same time. The Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee has indicated that some adjustments would be made to the Ratings Percentage Index criteria to award some credit for a team that loses in the overtime period. Any change to the selection criteria would have to be approved by the Division I Championships Oversight Committee (NCAA.COM)

Resistance to Change?

In the past, some leagues (WCHA, Hockey East, ECAC, AHA) have resisted using new formats to break regular season ties. They’ve continued to use the five-minute, five-on-five overtime period. Games ending in a tie after the five minute were final. For those four leagues, that’s the status quo and they haven’t been  interested in changing.

Currently, the Big Ten and the NCHC are the only leagues that use shootout to break ties. Last season, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference started using the three-on-three format to break ties after five minutes of five-on-five overtime. Rarely did the fans see a shootout. For the hockey purist, that’s a good thing.

In NCHC play, the fans seemed to enjoy the new three-on-three overtime format. The games that ended in a three-on-three overtime were very exciting and showcased offensive skill. With only six skaters and two goalies, there’s a lot of room for the players to move on the ice. Line changes are more difficult.

During the NCHC’s first season using the three-on-three format, rarely, did a game end in a shootout. Last season, there were 13 shootouts in 192 conference game.  For the fans that don’t like the shootout, that’s a plus. Obviously, some fans believe that the three-on-three overtime and the shootout format are a gimmick and a side show. Again, not everyone is going to agree. Hopefully, college hockey can find some common ground when breaking ties.

Personally, I would like to see the six division I conferences all use the same format to break ties. It would be nice to see some uniformity among the six conferences. It would be beneficial if the six division I conferences adopted the four-on-four format to break ties.