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COLLEGE HOCKEY: NCAA Rules Committee recommends changes to overtime, RPI weights

College hockey is likely to adopt 4-on-4, five-minute overtimes across the board and a new RPI weighting structure that doesn't reward teams as much for overtime wins and doesn't penalize teams as much for overtime losses.

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College hockey is likely to adopt 4-on-4, five-minute overtimes across the board and a new RPI weighting structure that doesn’t reward teams as much for overtime wins and doesn’t penalize teams as much for overtime losses.

The NCAA Rules Committee forwarded the recommended changes Friday. They could become official on July 20, when they will be heard by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel.

Coaches could still lobby against the proposed change, but the Rules Committee’s recommendations are usually approved.

The changes would go into effect for both men’s and women’s college hockey this fall. The new overtime format would only be for regular-season games. Playoff overtimes will continue to be 5-on-5 sudden death.

While most hockey leagues in the world have evolved to 4-on-4 or 3-on-3 overtimes during the regular season in order to cut down on the growing number of ties, college hockey has been one of the last holdouts.

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In fact, its coaching body overwhelmingly voted in April to keep the mandatory five-minute overtime at 5-on-5. The Rules Committee recommended to change it anyway.

In going with the coaching body’s wishes, the Committee also recommended changing the RPI weighting system, a key component of the Pairwise Rankings, which are used to pick the 16-team NCAA tournament field.

An overtime win will no longer count as much as a regulation win in the RPI and an overtime loss will not hurt as much as a regulation loss.

The specific weighting has not yet been determined by the Championship Committee, but sources tell the Herald that the most likely numbers are 75-25 (an overtime win would count as 75 percent of a regulation win and a loss would count as 25 percent).

“In our review of the game, it is clear that goal scoring is continuing to trend down,” said Tom Anastos, chair of the committee and head men’s coach at Michigan State. “After a thorough discussion of the overtime process, and seeing the success experienced by the National Hockey League and others using 4-on-4, we believe this change will be a positive step for NCAA hockey.

“Our committee is charged with finding a balance in making changes that we believe will have a positive impact on the game, yet respect the traditions of the sport. We feel the changes we have adopted meet those objectives and will enhance our brand of hockey.”

The NCAA Rules Committee also plans to continue allowing conferences to play a 3-on-3 overtime followed by a shootout for conference points only. Any game not decided in the 4-on-4 would officially go down as a tie.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference was the only league in the country to use the 3-on-3/shootout combination last season.

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The Big Ten used the shootout but not the 3-on-3. If the Big Ten wants to continue using the shootout, it would have to implement the 3-on-3, too.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association, Atlantic Hockey, Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference and Hockey East previously did not break ties for conference points last season in their men's leagues.

The NCHC will soon meet to discuss whether it wants to alter its point structure. Last season, it gave teams full value for a win in the five-minute, 5-on-5 overtime and no points for a loss in the 5-on-5. That may change with the 4-on-4 overtimes.

The NCHC gave two points for any win during the 3-on-3 or shootout and one point for a 3-on-3 or shootout loss.

The WCHA women's league has used a shootout for several years for conference points. If it is to continue, it will have to implement 3-on-3 play, too. The WCHA women's league is currently without a commissioner.

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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