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NCHC, WCHA plan to fight back against OT proposal

Karson Kuhlman (20) of Minnesota Duluth shoots the puck near Grant Hutton of Miami at a game earlier this year in Duluth. Clint Austin / Forum News Service

DULUTH—Neither the National Collegiate Hockey Conference or Western Collegiate Hockey Association currently has a voice on the NCAA men's and women's ice hockey rules committee, which last week proposed eliminating 3-on-3 overtimes periods and shootouts in favor of leaving games tied after a five-minute, 5-on-5 overtime period.

But you can bet both leagues will be heard loud and clear during the comment period, which begins this week and concludes in mid-July. The NCAA Playing Rules and Oversight Panel meets July 25 to vote on the final proposal.

NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said he and the league's coaches met via a conference call Tuesday. WCHA women's commissioner Katie Million held a conference call with her league's coaches Wednesday.

Both leagues have used 3-on-3 and/or shootouts to break ties, with the results only counting toward the conference standings, and they'd like the option to continue doing so.

"We certainly respect the NCAA and the rules committee in what they are trying to do, but I think that a broad-brush stroke doesn't necessarily address the issue," Million said. "We really like having the tiebreaker, although I would say there are some good ties.

"It's also the entertainment value, and we want our fans to be happy, too. That's one thing that the rules committee — and I didn't sit in on those meetings, so I don't know — but how much of that came into play in making their decision?"

The women's WCHA, along with the now-defunct CCHA, started using shootouts to break ties in 2008. The Big Ten has used shootouts since its inception.

Same goes for the NCHC, which then added 3-on-3 and, if necessary, a shootout three years ago. The WCHA men started doing the same last year.

"I believe in 3-on-3. I think it's good for the game, it's good for the evolution, the growth and promotion of the game," said Fenton, who also has talked with WCHA men's commissioner Bill Robertson, another 3-on-3 proponent, about the proposal. "In conference settings when points are up for grabs, it's pretty darn exciting."

The leagues that are based out east — Hockey East, Eastern College Athletic Conference, Atlantic Hockey and College Hockey America — have only been using the five-minute sudden-death period and left games tied. Same goes for every league at the Division III level.

Coincidently, those are the leagues that currently populate the 12-member rules committee, which is made up of coaches and administrators. All six Division I members are from Hockey East, ECAC and Atlantic Hockey, while the six Division III members hail from six different leagues.

"I believe if there were opportunities to do this, whether it be in ECAC, Hockey East, Atlantic Hockey, the Big 10 or otherwise, I think fans in those areas would love to see it," Fenton said of 3-on-3. "They just haven't had a ton of experience or any experience because they haven't done it. That's been their opinion to continue to do it with just 5-on-5, which is certainly fine.

"I think (3-on-3) is good and beneficial for the growth of the game. I would continue to encourage fans, media members, student-athletes to voice their opinion and beliefs on the overtime structure through social media or otherwise."

Two years ago the NCAA rules committee proposed playing the initial five-minute OT period 4-on-4, but that proposal was killed due to the negative feedback received during the comment period.

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

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