Western Collegiate Hockey Association league games can no longer end in ties, the league announced Tuesday.
The WCHA will use a 3-on-3 overtime and a sudden-death shootout to determine a winner in league games this season, if a game remains tied after the traditional 5-on-5 overtime following regulation.
Both overtimes will be 5 minutes. Each team will receive a minimum of one shot in the shootout. The second team to shoot will always have a chance to tie if the first team to shoot scores to start each round.
Previously, WCHA league games ended in a tie if no goal was scored during the 5-on-5 overtime.
The WCHA also announced a new point system to complement the 3-on-3 overtime and the shootout.
Teams will receive three points for winning in regulation and the 5-on-5 overtime, and two points for winning during the 3-on-3 overtime and the shootout. Teams losing in the 3-on-3 overtime and the shootout will earn one point.
The now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association adopted a similar point system when it used shootouts to determine league games, but it didn’t use a 3-on-3 overtime period.
“I like the changes. I want our game to mirror the NHL game,” Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron said. “I think that’s what our players want. I think that’s what our fans want.”
Seventy-one of the 140 WCHA’s league games last season ended in a tie or were decided by one goal, including 23 ties. Thirty-five of the league games were decided in overtime.
The NHL’s 3-on-3 overtime has been wildly popular. The 3-on-3 overtime broke 61 percent of the league’s ties last season, and 45 percent of the ties during the 2014-15 season, If NHL games are tied after the 3-on-3 overtime, the games are decided by a best of 3 shootout.
The WCHA joins the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and the Big Ten Conference as the only NCAA Division I leagues to use shootouts to break ties.
“The way we’re going to break ties is exciting,” Bergeron said. “I’m excited to see how it plays out.”
Bergeron’s only concerns regarding the 3-on-3 overtime and the shootout are the length of each game and the ice conditions.
The ice is not resurfaced after the third period, and there will be no dry cut of the ice between the 3-on-3 overtime and the shootout. The sudden-death format should prevent long shootouts.
“I don’t want the games being too long, to the point where it deters fans from coming,” Bergeron said. “We’re keeping in mind the ice conditions and the length of games, and trying to mirror the top level of our sport.”
Games decided during the 3-on-3 overtime and the shootout will be counted as a tie for NCAA purposes.
All WCHA playoff games will revert to the NCAA method for overtime, meaning 20-minute sudden-death periods until a winner is determined.
PENALTIES/POWER PLAYS: If a penalty is resulting in a power play during the 3-on-3 overtime, the power play will be 4-on-3, and 5-on-3 if two penalties are called.
Any power plays that carry over from the 5-on-5 overtime to the 3-on-3 overtime will be a 4-on-3 advantage or a 5 on 3, if two penalties carry over.
Any player who is serving an unexpired penalty at the end of the 3-of-3 overtime will not be eligible to participate in the shootout.
3-ON-3: The Falcon have worked on 3-on-3 situations during practice in the past because they’re good for conditioning and defensive work, Bergeron said. The 3-on-3 opens up the ice with four fewer skaters.
“The 3-on-3 is really going to matter now,” Bergeron said. “Those are going to be huge points.”
The Falcons finished third in the league last season — just two points behind co-champions Michigan Tech and Minnesota State.
“We know after … last year that every point matters,” Bergeron said. “That 3-on-3/shootout point is going to matter. We’re going to make sure we’re good at it (the 3-on-3).”
REWARDS: The 3-point games in the WCHA are different than the NHL.
In the NHL, all wins are worth two points and teams receive one point for losing in overtime or a shootout. That means some games are worth two points and others are worth three. In the WCHA, all games are worth three points.
“From a mirroring the NHL standpoint, it’s not going to be mirroring the NHL,” Bergeron said. “Will it make a huge difference between one team and another team in the standings? I don’t know.”
CHANGE III: In addition to the 3-on-3 overtime/shootouts and the 3-point games, the WCHA announced skaters will have four more inches behind the net this season.
All 10 WCHA schools will install the 40-inch goal frame that is standard in the NHL. The 44-inch frames have long been used in college hockey.
“The NHL’s doing it, and their people have investigated and done their due diligence,” Bergeron said. “It could potentially help with creating more offense by creating more room out there because the space on the ice is so difficult to get. I don’t know if it will or not, but if (the NHL is) doing it, then we should be doing it.”
WCHA league games averaged just 4.97 goals last season. In overall scoring, the WCHA’s overall scoring leader, Alaska’s Tyler Morley, ranked just 38th nationally in points per game at 1.03 per contest.
STARTING: The Falcons began fall semester classes Monday and start off-ice conditioning and captains practices next week.
Official practices under NCAA rules begin Oct. 1, although the NCAA allows teams two hours of team time on the ice until then.
BG starts the season Oct. 7-8 with a WCHA series at Bemidji State. The Falcons host the University of Windsor in their annual Canadian exhibition Oct. 1 at noon.