EDINA, Minn. – The game format, on-ice product and regular season championship chase in the men’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association will have a new dynamic moving forward, as the league today announced three pivotal changes to take effect for the upcoming 2016-17 season: Introduction of 3-on-3 overtime and shootout (both if necessary) for regular season league games, a three-point-per-game structure to the league standings and mandatory National Hockey League nets in all arenas.
“The WCHA is committed to evolving and adapting however possible to maximize the overall experience for our student-athletes, programs and fans,” said WCHA Men’s League Commissioner Bill Robertson in making the announcement. “These initiatives will bring a new element of excitement to all areas of WCHA hockey, from opening up more space on the ice, to bringing resolution for each league game and adding another wrinkle to the always-thrilling races for home ice advantage and the MacNaughton Cup. It is a testament to our member institution administrators and coaches that, together, we brought forth positive changes that have proven to be successful, and are in line with what our fans and players want.”
Overtime and Shootout
Ensuring that each contest will have a “winner” in the league standings, each WCHA regular season league game that remains tied after regulation and the NCAA-mandated, five-minute 5-on-5 overtime period will now advance to a second five-minute overtime period, of 3-on-3 play; if the game is still tied, it will be settled in a sudden death shootout (wherein each team will receive a minimum of one shot, and the second team to shoot can match if the first team to shoot, scores). All WCHA postseason games will revert to the NCAA standard of sudden death, 20-minute overtime periods to determine a winner.
Beginning with the 2016-17 season, each WCHA regular season league game will be worth three points, awarded as follows:
- Game decided in regulation: three (3) points to winning team
- Game decided in 5-on-5 overtime (five minutes, sudden death): three (3) points to winning team
- Game decided in 3-on-3 overtime (five minutes, sudden death): two (2) points to winning team, one (1) point to losing team
- Game decided in shootout (sudden death): two (2) points to winning team, one (1) point to losing team
The 3-on-3 overtime and shootouts will only affect the WCHA standings, while any game that is tied after the 5-on-5 overtime remains officially a tie for NCAA purposes. Thus, the WCHA standings will show Wins, Losses, Ties and 3-on-3/Shootout Wins (“W-L-T-3/SW”). In this format, W-L-T will add up to games played, with the “Tie” column signifying how many times a team has been to a 3-on-3 overtime or shootout; and, the “3-on-3/Shootout Wins” column representing how many games a team has won in that fashion.
WCHA skaters will have four additional inches to work with behind the net in each league rink this season, as all 10 member institutions will install the 40-inch goal frame that is standard across the NHL. A vast majority of WCHA arenas in 2015-16 had the 44-inch frames that long have been a staple of college hockey.
“These changes put the WCHA on par with the future of college hockey, along with the present format for the highest professional leagues,” said Damon Whitten, head coach at Lake Superior State and coaches’ chair for the WCHA Men’s League. “As coaches, we are ecstatic for the development of our student-athletes to expose them to the same conditions they will experience when playing at the next level. We’re also thrilled for our fans, as they will now get to go home each night with a winner for every game. We applaud the league for these important steps and look forward to a terrific season ahead.”
The 2016-17 WCHA season gets underway Saturday, Oct. 1 and Sunday, Oct. 2. Defending Broadmoor Trophy winner Ferris State University hosts University Alabama-Huntsville in the opening league series, reigning MacNaughton Cup co-champion Michigan Tech visits University of Minnesota Duluth in a nonconference set and five teams play exhibition contests. The first full weekend of the regular season is set for Oct. 7-9.
The upcoming WCHA season concludes with the return of postseason hockey to campus sites throughout the league tournament. The “2017 WCHA Playoffs” begin with four (4) best-of-three, quarterfinal round series hosted by the league’s top four regular-season finishers the weekend of March 3-5, followed by two (2) best-of-three semifinal round series hosted by the highest remaining seeds the weekend of March 10-12. The “2017 WCHA Championship” will be a single game, hosted by the highest remaining seed Saturday, March 18.
Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).