The WCHA announced Tuesday three pivotal changes to take effect for the upcoming 2016-17 season.
The changes include the 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 NHL 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 commissioner Bill Robertson in a statement. “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.”
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 points to winning team
• Game decided in 5-on-5 overtime (five minutes, sudden death): three points to winning team
• Game decided in 3-on-3 overtime (five minutes, sudden death): two points to winning team, one point to losing team
• Game decided in shootout (sudden death): two points to winning team, one 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.
All 10 WCHA teams 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 WCHA coaches’ chair, in a statement. “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.”