College Hockey Nears Final Approval For Multiple Rule Changes

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On July 25, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel will sit down to discuss the final approval of a handful of rule changes the NCAA is laying on the table for college hockey, including eliminating the option for 3-on-3 overtimes and shootouts in favor of a standardized format.

Like any level in every sport, the game evolves and college hockey is no different. Below are the multiple changes being sought by the NCAA ahead of the October puck drop of the 2018-19 season.

Overtime Changes

Back in mid-June, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee officially announced a standardized overtime format to begin in 2018-19, pending final approval by the Rules Oversight Panel. A five-minute, 5-on-5 period will be played for games tied after regulation. The rule applies to all in-season games, meaning any contest ending in a split score after 65 minutes will be labeled a tie.

“While differing opinions were expressed, at the end of the day the committee strongly endorsed a single overtime option, cleaning up the book and affirming the belief that hockey is played, for the most part, in a 5-on-5 format,” Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna told USCHO.com. “While the time might come where college hockey will employ a reduced manpower overtime, the prevailing voices on the committee did not see that time as now.”

In the past, conferences were given the choice of using a five-minute, 3-on-3 extra period, with or without a sudden-death shootout, for league games that were still tied after a normal 5-on-5 overtime.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference was the first to use a 3-on-3 overtime, along with a shootout, in the 2015-16 season, and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association soon followed suit in 2016-17. Meanwhile, the Big Ten has opted to go straight to a shootout after a 5-on-5 OT period in recent years.

Bertagna continued, saying the committee acknowledged the time may come to reduce the manpower in overtime. The NHL moved to 3-on-3 in 2015-16 after AHL experimentation proved it would decrease the reliance on the often-criticized shootout, but the NCAA still favors five per side.

For in-season tournaments with advancement on the line, events will be given the choice of implementing a shootout or 20-minute sudden-death overtime periods.

Video Review Polishing

The NCAA is seeking widened rules for video review in regard to the ejection of players. Instead of having referees gather to discuss the potential ejection of a player(s), they would be required to immediately review the play to expedite the process and have a better idea of the warrant of an ejection.

“When video replay is available, it is important to be sure student-athletes are penalized appropriately,” Bertagna said. “Given the speed of the game, providing this tool will help ensure proper enforcement.”

While the NCAA is ready to expand video review capabilities, it is also seeking a more limited use of video review for teams. Coaches must now use a challenge for referees to review goals scored after hitting the protective netting or resulting from a high stick.

More Changes And Hurdles

Other smaller changes are being sought by the NCAA, which is taking the proverbial page of out the NHL’s book. One change includes harsher penalization on slashing and late hits, an area the NHL attacked in 2017-18. Also being sought is a better definition for substitutions, which would require players to be within 5 feet from their bench in order to deem a player change legal.

The NCAA is also planning on having an extra timeout for all teams during an overtime period, increasing teams from 18 to 19 players and forcing a skater to immediately drop any puck caught by hand—failure would result in a minor penalty.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel will meet on July 25 to discuss each potential rule change in further detail.


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