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NCAA approves college hockey's move to 3-on-3 overtime across the sport

Five minutes of 5-on-5 eliminated; shootouts will only be used in conference play, regular-season tournaments.

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The ceremonial first puck is dropped before the 2019 Frozen Four championship game between Minnesota Duluth and Massachusetts on April 13, 2019, at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y. Mick Hatten/The Rink Live
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The NCAA officially approved changes to college hockey’s overtime format on Wednesday , ending what had become a fragmented system across the different leagues while also bringing the sport closer to alignment with the National Hockey League.

Starting with the 2020-21 season, games that are tied after regulation with go straight to a five-minute 3-on-3 overtime period. If no one scores in overtime, the game will officially end in a tie, however, a three-person shootout will be allowed in conference play for league points and in regular-season tournaments for advancement.

“Finding a way to align NCAA ice hockey overtime rules with those of other hockey leagues has been a thoroughly debated topic in recent years,” the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel wrote Wednesday in its announcement. “Once again, NCAA Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Rules Committee members had comprehensive discussions before deciding on this proposal.”

Men’s and women’s college hockey and the Division I and Division III level had still been using a five-minute, 5-on-5 overtime period to break ties, but after that, it varied between leagues as to how ties were broken in conference play.

In 2019-20, four of the six men’s leagues — NCHC, WCHA, Big 10 and Atlantic Hockey — and the women’s WCHA used 3-on-3 followed by an, if-necessary, sudden-death shootout to break ties in conference play. Hockey East and the ECAC men’s and women’s leagues continued to let games end in ties after 65 minutes.

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Results from 3-on-3 or shootouts previously didn’t count toward the NCAA selection process — games that ended tied after 65 minutes were ties — though now the result from 3-on-3 OT periods will count. The value of a 3-on-3 OT victory as compared to a regulation win will be determined by the NCAA ice hockey championship committees.

Minnesota Duluth coaches Scott Sandelin and Maura Crowell were both heavily in favor of the format that was originally pitched by the NCHC during the spring, recommended by the NCAA rules committee in June and formally approved Wednesday.

“I want a winner. There’s a reason why we play games. I want to see a winner, whether that’s for league points or RPI points,” Crowell said in May. “I think that’s what fans want, I think that’s what our players want and certainly as a coach that’s what I’m looking for. So whatever would keep us from ending in ties is what I’m interested in.”

Added Sandelin in May: “The biggest thing is we need a uniform policy. I like that it is in line with the National Hockey League and that’s where a lot of our guys want to go.”

Conference postseason tournaments and the NCAA tournament will still use 20-minute 5-on-5 overtime periods.

In other rules changes approved Wednesday:

  • Attacking teams will be able to choose which faceoff circle the puck will be dropped at the start of a power play or icing violation. Also, a warning will be issued instead of an ejection of the center for an initial faceoff violation. A second violation by the same team during the same faceoff will result in a bench minor penalty for delay of game. Both changes are similar to international rules that Sandelin and Crowell said they enjoyed playing under while coaching U.S. national teams the past few years.

  • The rule in the handbook requiring handshakes after a game has been removed. Handshake protocols will be left up to the conferences and schools.

  • Spin-o-ramas, where a player does a 360-degree turn with the puck en route to the goal, will not be allowed during shootouts. No reason was given as to why.

NCAA Ice Hockey Logo.jpg
NCAA Ice Hockey logo

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Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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