The NCAA hockey season kicked off this past weekend with a series of exhibition games and three regular season games. The newly founded National Collegiate Hockey Conference is set to begin league play on October 18, 2013. The NCHC announced this past summer that the league will use the shootout to break ties during conference match-ups if the game is tied after a standard five-minute overtime period.
Like I mentioned in an earlier article, while this move is going to be controversial to some NCHC hockey fans, I think it’s a smart move by the NCHC to adopt the shootout. To me, it seems like a no-brainer. According to College Hockey Inc., Division I College hockey is responsible for providing and supplying about 30 percent of the players that play in the NHL. If Division I college hockey is going to continue to be a top development league and a route to the NHL, college hockey rules “should” closely mirror those of the NHL. I believe this is a move in the right direction.
During the exhibition game between the University of North Dakota and the Manitoba Bison last weekend, the two teams had a practice shootout at the end of the game. UND outscored the Bison 2-0 with UND goalie Zane Gothberg stopping both Bison shooters that he faced.
Players Love the Idea of a Shootout
After the game during the post game media scrum, some of the players from the UND hockey team expressed their excitement about the NCHC using the shootout to break ties during league play. It was obvious that the players had enjoyed the practice shootout at the end of the game.
Over the past two weeks, I have been asking some of the players from the UND hockey team what they thought about the shootout and the NCHC using it to break ties. Here’s what the players had to say about the shootout.
UND sophomore goalie Zane Gothberg, who played goal for the Fargo Force in the USHL, had experience with the shootout during his junior hockey days. Here’s what the sophomore goalie had to say. The response that I got from him was unsolicited; he brought up the shootout when he was asked about his thoughts on the new conference.
“I am looking forward to it, especially with the little shootouts that they’ll have at the end of the game if there’s a tie,” Zane Gothberg said. “That will be kind of cool.”
Following the exhibition game against Manitoba, junior forward Michal Parks was asked about his thoughts on the game ending shootout.
“I like it,” Parks said. “It will make our game more like the NHL game.”
During the Wednesday hockey media day, this is what assistant captain Steph Pattyn had to say about the shootout.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Pattyn said. “No one likes to end with a tie. I think it’s great for the fans too. It’s exciting to see. You saw Rocco’s (Grimaldi) move on Sunday night that was an unbelievable move. Just for fans to see that as a skilled player, make a skilled play like that is exciting.”
There will be no more tie games: Points are at stake
Last Sunday night, sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi had a beautiful highlight goal in the shootout against the Bison. The dynamic forward is very excited about the shootout.
“I think it’s great,” Grimaldi said. “I think it’s going to be exciting for the fans. Obviously, one or two points can separate you from a division championship and possibly an NCAA berth, if you win that game that in the shootout. That’s another area of our game that we have to perfect and grow.”
Junior forward Mark MacMillan brought up a good point; with the shootouts, there will be no more games ending in a tie.
“I think it’s fun,” MacMillan said. “I think it’s exciting. I know that some people don’t like it, but I think it’s fun for the fans to see. It’s kind of another thing for them to come and watch. It’s going to be an important part of the game. Obviously, if three, four or five games go into a shootout, those are going to be three, four or five big points at the end of the year.”
Some of the players have given their feelings on the shootout. Everyone I talked to was excited about the NCHC using the shootout to break tie games. UND head coach Dave Hakstol is also excited about the shootout.
“I think it’s entertaining for the fans,” Hakstol said. “I think we owe that to the fans of our sport. I thought there was a little bit of electricity even though it was a shootout that didn’t mean anything, at the end of an exhibition game. So, it’s not a tradition that’s part of our game, but in terms of adapting to new things and the entertainment value I think it’s good for our league.”
I think that as time elapses, you will see more of the fans embrace the shootout like the players already have. I think the shootout will help the NCHC resemble NHL regular season games. Time will tell and the regular season starts this weekend.
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.