UMaine men's hockey Credit: Mark Tutuny

College hockey overtime rules will switch to a five-minute, three-on-three sudden-death format instead of five minutes off sudden-death five-on-five, according to a change recently approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel.

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee had made that recommendation to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel.

If neither team scores in overtime, the game will go into the books as a tie for NCAA purposes, although teams could add a three-player shootout for an extra conference point or during in-season tournaments for advancement purposes.

The three-on-three overtime format is used by virtually every junior league and pro league in North America including the United States Junior Hockey League, the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.

NCAA Tournament overtime games will remain the same with the two teams playing until somebody scores.

Both University of Maine men’s hockey coach Red Gendron and women’s hockey coach Richard Reichenbach like the three-on-three format.

Gendron said it will add excitement for the fans, while Reichenbach sees the format as being favorable to his team because it has a host of European players.

“The European players are used to playing on bigger ice sheets and to having more time and space with the puck. And they know how to change on the fly,” said Reichenbach, who had 11 Europeans on last year’s roster.

The three-on-three overtime is also likely to reduce the number of ties in college hockey.

There were 125 ties among the 1,049 NCAA Division I men’s games this past season, which was nearly 11.9 percent of all games.

In other rule changes, teams will get to choose which faceoff circle to use for an offensive-zone faceoff after the opponent ices the puck or picks up a penalty.

“You can set up more plays for each side and you can be more creative on the power play,” Reichenbach said.

And when players commit a faceoff infraction, it won’t result in that team’s faceoff taker being tossed out of the circle and replaced by a teammate. But a second consecutive infraction will result in a two-minute delay-of-game penalty.

“That’s good. It will speed the game up,” Reichenbach said.

The post-game handshake requirement has been dropped by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be up to the individual leagues to decide on a post-game sportsmanship format.