WeldieBlog: Fixing Overtime
Overall, it was a successful weekend for the Huskies.
The St. Cloud State men’s hockey team tied the North Dakota Fighting Hawks last Friday and came out victorious on Saturday to earn four points. The Huskies head into the midseason break atop the NCHC standings and recently was tabbed as the top team in college hockey by the USCHO voters.
From a pure talent standpoint, it was one of the more exciting series we’ve had in St. Cloud in some time. It was a hard fought series by both teams. From great goals, fantastic saves and shenanigans after the whistle, this series had everything.
In fact, my biggest complaint about the series has nothing to do with the play on the ice. It has to do with the NCHC rulebook.
The NCAA requires college hockey to have a five-minute, five-on-five overtime. After that, the game goes into the books as a tie. Stats aren’t counted after this. Pairwise doesn’t factor anything. In the eyes of the NCAA, whatever happens next is meaningless.
Beyond that, how conference points are awarded is determined by each conference. So for ties, the NCHC had decided on a three-on-three overtime (like in the NHL) for five minutes. If the teams are still tied, it goes to a one-round shootout. The winner gets an extra conference point. No goals that are scored during the three-on-three count toward individual statistics.
The WCHA has the same structure. The Big 10 conference doesn’t have a three-on-three, but does have a three-person shootout after the normal five-on-five overtime period. Every other conference just ends the game in a tie.
You can have your opinion either way on shootouts. You can think they are fun and exciting or you can think it’s an individual skills competition, like home run contest, and a dumb way to decide the outcome of a team sport. Either way, my point is the same. The lack of rules consistency hurts the sport and hinders growth.
Hockey is a niche sport. College hockey is a smaller sect of that. If you are a new fan, trying to explain how overtime counts and doesn’t count at the same time is incredibly confusing. All conferences should be on the same page. They were when college hockey was at the peak of its popularity.
I understand the appeal of three-on-three hockey, but I just don’t feel it should be played if no NCAA implications are on the line. Imagine playing in that overtime and Ryan Poehling goes down with an injury. Was it worth the risk for an extra conference point? He’s goals wouldn’t count anyway. Then why play it?
Let’s take a look at how the NCHC does shootouts. It’s one round. At least in a three-round shootout, it can build to a climax. There is some strategy. In a one-round shutout, it’s over before it starts. That was after a dry scrape of the ice was completed. The dry scrape itself took longer than the shootout.
Look at every major college hockey site and all says the game was a 2-2 tie. If you subscribe to NCHC.tv, the result says a 2-2 tie. The shootout didn’t matter and it only adds to the confusion, but North Dakota can still frame the narrative to say that they won.
So how do we fix it? There is a very simple solution to this issue. One that will keep things clear and concise to new fans while also accomplishing what fake overtimes and shootouts are meant to do. That is just do a regular five-on-five overtime and end games in ties.
“Oh, Travis,” you may say. “What about playing for ties? We don’t want to encourage playing it safe late in the game.”
If you believe that, you are completely wrong that coaches play for ties in college hockey. There is a limited amount of games and Pairwise is too valuable to just sit back and play it safe.
The answer has been in European soccer all along. Keep the points for a win at three. Each team gets one point for a tie. That extra point will be a huge driving factor for coaches to not go into a trap and play it safe. Reward aggressive team play that doesn’t go down to a meaningless overtime session or shootout.
If you are going to do shootouts, just doing one round is a terrible idea. The thought process in having only one round, according to the NCHC twitter account, was to help limit the length of overall games. If conference members are concerned about limiting the length of the game, I’d point to the delay of running a Zamboni out on the ice for a dry scrape. That’s just a waste of time.
I don’t expect them to change to this method, but how it is done currently is broken. I hope member schools Athletic Directors and coaches take a look at it.
This blog is the opinion of Travis Weldon, College hockey fan and frequent guest of Granite City Sports. You can read more from Travis on Twitter @MoarClappers.