For the last five seasons, every Hockey East team made the playoffs but that will change next season.
Only the top eight teams in the 11-team league will qualify for the postseason, which will consist of best-of-three quarterfinal series at the home sites of the higher seeds followed by the semifinals and championship game at the TD Garden in Boston.
This past season, the top five teams received first-round byes and the bottom six teams squared off in best-of-three series with the sixth-place team entertaining the 11th seed; No. 7 hosting No. 10 and the eighth seed awaiting the ninth seed.
Then the teams were re-seeded with the lowest seeded survivor taking on the regular season league champion in a best-of-three quarterfinal series, the number two seed facing the second lowest survivor, number three versus the highest-seeded survivor and the fourth and fifth seeds squaring off.
The change in format was approved by the league’s athletic directors at the recent Hockey East meetings in Naples, Florida, in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association’s annual convention.
University of Maine coach Red Gendron and Providence coach and former UMaine assistant Nate Leaman preferred not to express their feelings on the league’s decision to exclude three teams.
But Leaman did explain that “the concern was getting the playoff format down to two weekends instead of three. That’s the direction the league is going in.”
Unless there are changes among the other five conferences, Hockey East will be just the second conference that won’t have all of its teams involved in postseason play.
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association had just its top eight teams qualify while the ninth- and 10th-place teams, Lake Superior State and the University of Alaska-Anchorage, failed to do so.
When Hockey East was a 10-team league, just eight would qualify. However, when Notre Dame became the league’s 11th team in 2013-14, they included all 11 teams and then, when UConn became the 12th team in 2014-15, all 12 qualified.
In other news from the convention, the overtime issue is still up in the air.
Gendron explained that ideas were exchanged and it will be up to the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee and the Competition Committee to come up with a new format or leave it the way it is in June at the NCAA meetings in Indianapolis.
Under current NCAA guidelines for regular season games, if a game is tied after regulation, the teams play a five-minute sudden-death overtime with a full complement of players: five skaters and a goalie.
But three of the six conferences extend their overtime beyond the five minutes and the winner receives an extra point toward their conference record. Two conferences go to a five-minute three-on-three (plus goalies) before going to a shootout and the other conference goes right to a shootout after the five-minute session.
However, that doesn’t reflect in their NCAA records.
There is sentiment for four-on-four overtimes or three-on-three but, as Gendron and Leaman pointed out, it is up to those committees and they also have to factor in the impact on the Pairwise Rankings.
Gendron said the rules committee was going to go to a four-on-four format two years ago but there was such a negative backlash from the coaches, it was tabled and never became a reality.
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