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Future of NCAA regionals expected to be hot topic this week

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The hotly contested debate about what to do with NCAA regionals will be at the top of the agenda this week as college hockey commissioners and coaches meet in Naples, Fla.

In the past, coaches have been strongly in favor of the current setup—four neutral-site, predetermined venues that are played on NHL-sized ice sheets.

The coaches have urged the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Committee to stay clear of home venues for regionals, noting that it's too big of an advantage to give a team.

While this setup has worked in the East, where schools are closely clustered and there's an abundance of American Hockey League team facilities, it has not worked in the West.

The number of viable neutral-site venues has dwindled to the point where only one school put in neutral-site bids in the West and Midwest for the 2018 and 2019 regionals.

North Dakota is hosting those regionals in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Fargo, it was announced last week.

Because no Midwest schools/venues put in bids for those years, the Committee placed the Midwest Regional in Allentown, Pa., for both 2018 and 2019. Allentown would normally be an East Regional.

UND athletic director Brian Faison, a member of the Division I Men's Ice Hockey Committee and a longtime proponent of moving regionals back to campus sites, said coaches may be more open to new ideas this year.

The three new options that are expected to be discussed are allowing home venues to bid on predetermined regional sites, moving the four regionals to the home venue of the No. 1 seed or turning the first weekend into eight best-of-three series on the campus of the higher seed.

Early recruiting problems

Another issue that will be discussed is early recruiting in college hockey.

College hockey coaches have long had a standing 'gentleman's agreement' that they won't recruit players who have given a verbal commitment, even though it is allowed under NCAA rules until they sign a National Letter of Intent.

But with the age of commitments getting younger and younger, coaches have abused that method in recent years.

Coaches are forcing student-athletes to make on-the-spot decisions about their futures as young as age 16. They tell prospects they have a day to commit or else their offer is gone. Once they commit, schools are unable to tell that prospect that they, perhaps, have a better offer.

Eliminating the gentleman's agreement could raise the age of recruiting a little bit.

Susan Peal, the NCAA's director of NLIs, is scheduled to speak.

Minnesota coach Don Lucia has long been a vocal proponent of eliminating the gentleman's agreement, and many schools are no longer abiding by it, anyway.

No major rules changes

While there won't be any rules changes this summer—they are only allowed every two years—a couple of topics will generate heavy discussion.

The first is overtimes.

The Rules Committee would like them to be uniform across all of college hockey's conferences. Right now, overtimes are done three different ways among the six conferences.

Video reviews will be a second topic of discussion.

There have been reviews that have taken longer than 10 minutes—a major problem in slowing down the game. In one National Collegiate Hockey Conference game this season, a video review lasted 14 minutes, which is nearly the length of an intermission.

It's doubtful that they will implement a hard-and-fast time limit on video reviews, but there will likely be an emphasis to cut down on video review time.

The Pairwise formula, which is used to pick the NCAA tournament field, will be discussed as well. There may be slight tweaks to a formula that has largely been successful over the years in independently picking the at-large teams.

And lastly, there will be a discussion on the standard of play, specifically, hooking, holding and interference penalties. While no rules will be changed, there can be new emphasis placed on eliminating obstruction.

This has been attempted almost annually throughout the years. Obstruction penalties were up in 2016-17 overall but dropped after the first month of the season.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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