ORONO, Maine — Hockey East is changing its playoff system next season, but the first round’s format is still undecided, according to University of Maine athletic director Steve Abbott, who recently returned from the American Hockey Coaches Association’s annual meeting in Florida.
The league playoffs will include all 11 teams next season — Notre Dame will become the league’s 11th team — unlike this past year’s format in which only eight of 10 qualified.
Hockey East was the only one of Division I college hockey’s five leagues that didn’t include every team in their playoffs.
Abbott said the coaches and athletic directors discussed a number of options for the first round which will see the number six seed hosting the No. 11 team, No. 7 hosting No. 10 and No. 8 hosting No. 9.
The top five teams will receive byes into the quarterfinals, which will be a best-of-three series at the site of the higher seeds.
The two most likely options for the first round are a best-of-three series or just one game.
Abbott said he had been an advocate of the best-of-three series but he now finds himself undecided.
The league’s athletic directors will vote on the format in June, he said.
“The coaches are clearly in favor of a best-of-three series,” said Abbott. “But one game is almost like having [three] play-in games. It would add excitement and intensity to that one game.”
Abbott also noted that one team could be forced to play eight games in a two-and-a-half week span if they were seeded sixth through 11th and reached the championship game after having to go to a third game in the first round and quarterfinal round series.
“How many games do you want to force an underdog to play in a short period of time?” Abbott asked.
He also said that could be detrimental to the team’s chances in the NCAA Regionals if it won the Hockey East tournament and earned the automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament.
In 2014-2015, the University of Connecticut will join Hockey East, so the top four teams will earn first-round byes while the other eight teams vie in the first round.
Among other topics of discussion, Abbott said they talked about standardizing their video technology.
“We all use our own video technology now so we’re exploring whether or not we should look for a league-wide vendor,” he said.