The NCAA announced today that the Division III men’s hockey tournament will expand to from eight to nine teams beginning this season.
Dan Harris, athletic director at Milwaukee School of Engineering and chairman of the Division III Men’s Hockey Committee, confirmed that a second Pool “C”, or at-large bid, will be granted beginning with the current 2001-2002 season.
“It’s been in the works for some time,” said Harris. “The NCAA is looking to expand the size of Pool ‘C’, and hockey was a natural since the ratio of bids to teams is 7.5 to 1 and we are very close to that.”
There are currently 67 Division III men’s programs, so nine NCAA berths would be a ratio of 7.4 to 1.
The six Automatic Qualifiers remain (ECAC East, ECAC Northeast, MIAC, NESCAC, NCHA, SUNYAC), plus the single Pool “B” berth available to teams from the ECAC West and MCHA.
Pool “C” bids are available to teams from the conferences given automatic qualifiers as a second chance or at-large berth. Going to nine teams increases the size of Pool “C” from one to two teams.
Harris originally said the play-in game between the two lowest Eastern seeds would be on Wednesday, March 6, 2002. On Thursday, he said the committee is considering holding the game on Tuesday, March 5.
As many as four or as little as two western teams will be extended bids based on a nine-team field.
In the scenario where there are three western teams, the winner of the play-in game would most likely be shipped west to face the number one western seed. Otherwise, it will be paired against the highest eastern seed.