NCHA men’s conference goes to two divisions, introduces new playoff format

The upcoming season in the NCHA men’s conference will include a few significant changes, including the creation of two divisions and a new playoff format.

The changes were finalized at the athletic directors meeting in Fond du Lac, Wis., on Sept. 23

Finlandia, Lawrence, Northland, Milwaukee School of Engineering, St. Norbert and St. Scholastics will make up the North Division, while Adrian, Aurora, Concordia (Wis.), Lake Forest and Marian are the South Division.

MSOE was selected via a blind draw as the geographic transition team and will play the 2015-16 season in the North Division, then switch and play the 2016-17 season in the South Division.

The new playoff format will include a six-team field, with the top three teams in each division qualifying for the postseason. The quarterfinal round will pit the No. 3 seed at the No. 2 seed in each division. The champion from each division will earn a bye and advance directly to the semifinal round. Those champions and the two other quarterfinal winners will be re-seeded in the semifinals, based on total points in conference games and independent from their divisional affiliation.

The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds will host semifinal series.

According to an NCHA news release, “the new format and divisions allow for a continued emphasis on all regular season games, with an added element of divisional races and rivalries.”

Also new in 2015-16 is the addition of Aurora in the conference schedule and standings. The Spartans played a limited schedule against NCAA teams last year, but defeated St. Mary’s and played tight games with three nationally-ranked opponents.