WCHA close to approving future playoff format; ‘Alaska Plan’ dumped

The Mankato Free Press reported Friday that the WCHA’s future playoff format starting in 2014 was approved by conference athletic directors late last week.

Reportedly, an eight-team format will be used in the first four years of the league, meaning two teams will not qualify for the postseason.

The format still must be approved by the school presidents, according to the report.

Under the plan, the top four teams will host first-round series with the winners advancing to a single-elimination semifinal and championship weekend at a neutral site. Van Andel Arena (2014, 2016) in Grand Rapids, Mich., and the Xcel Energy Center (2015, 2017) in St. Paul, Minn., are rumored to host the championship weekend event.

The so-called “Alaska Plan,” which would have seen Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage play one another in the first round regardless of regular-season finish, will not be utilized.

“I think we all struggled with the equity and fairness of what we adopted last summer,” said Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman in the report. “The whole integrity of the bracket would have been impacted by financial and budgetary issues.

“I feel like we’ve got some momentum now. We added [Alabama-] Huntsville [in January], we affirmed a 28-game schedule, our championship format is in a good place and we’re close to finalizing a contract with our championship venues. Every little bit feels like we’re moving in the right direction.”