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Sioux would support shootout

Shootouts have been a tradition with the UND men's hockey team. For years, the Sioux have had a competition at the end of each Thursday practice. Everyone participates, even coaches. If you score, you move on to the next round. If you are stopped...

Shootouts have been a tradition with the UND men's hockey team.

For years, the Sioux have had a competition at the end of each Thursday practice. Everyone participates, even coaches.

If you score, you move on to the next round. If you are stopped, you're done. The winner gets the reward of being attacked by teammates.

Some wonder, if in the future, there will be a more glamorous reward to shootout success.

The Central Collegiate Hockey Association has started using them to break ties in conference games. For NCAA purposes, the game is considered a tie. But in the standings, the shootout winner gets two points and the loser one.

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Western Collegiate Hockey Association coaches largely have been against the shootout. Minnesota coach Don Lucia and Denver coach George Gwozdecky used the WCHA's annual media conference call as a platform to voice their opposition to the shootout.

But not everyone feels that way.

UND coach Dave Hakstol said he thinks shootouts would be good for the league. His players agree.

"It's unfortunate we're not using the shootout in the WCHA this year," Hakstol said. "I think it's going to be a real source of excitement in the other leagues. It is in the NHL. You can debate up and down the subject as to whether it is legitimate or good for the standings. One thing that can't be debated is that it's exciting for the fans."

Last Saturday, fans with the NHL Center Ice package could have flipped to the New Jersey-Washington game to see former UND player Zach Parise score in the shootout. Minutes later, in the Buffalo-Atlanta game, ex-Sioux Drew Stafford buried a shootout goal. And about an hour later, Jonathan Toews scored a shootout goal for Chicago only to get outdone by former Sioux linemate T.J. Oshie, who had the shootout winner for St. Louis.

"You can't tell me that both Chicago and St. Louis fans instead wanted to go home with a tie," Hakstol said. "They had a chance to see Jonny Toews and T.J. Oshie and all of these other great players go one-on-one with the goaltender. It's exciting. It's great entertainment."

Sioux forward Mario Lamoureux played four seasons in the United States Hockey League, which uses the shootout.

"I think it's a great idea," Lamoureux said. "Ending a game in a tie kind of stinks. Shootouts aren't the greatest way to end a game, but it's really exciting and better than ending a game in a tie."

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Matt Watkins agrees. Watkins played in the British Columbia Hockey League prior to UND, which has a five-minute overtime of 4-on-4 play, followed by five minutes of 3-on-3.

"I always flip back and forth on the NHL package to see which games are close at the end," Watkins said. "And I will go to ones that are going to go to shootouts. I think from a fan's point of view, it's exciting. It gives a clear winner to the game.

"The NHL has implemented a lot of good rules and college is probably just a step or two behind. I'm sure in the future the rules will be very similar, if not the same."

The main argument against shootouts is that they could make big impacts in the standings. Many coaches don't want that to happen.

"If shootouts are such a good idea, why don't we use them in the NCAA tournament?" Lucia asks.

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said he doesn't think league coaches will come around soon and start supporting shootouts, but it's not out of the question.

"I do know that CCHA coaches were unanimously against it last spring," McLeod said. "Somehow the worm turned. In the August meeting, they voted and passed it. It's not unanimous and it's somewhat controversial. We'll be keeping our eye on it."

The WCHA also will be able to watch how the shootout works in its own women's league. It added the shootout this season.

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The Sioux women have been involved in one, losing it to Minnesota State-Mankato.

"They're great if you win them, they stink if you lose them," UND women's coach Brian Idalski said. "But at least there is some finality to the game. It's fun and right now we're trying to increase our fan base. I think it's something that the people will take to."

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com .

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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