In my six seasons covering the University of Minnesota Duluth hockey programs for the News Tribune, there’s been no greater waste of the precious time I have on this Earth than the NCAA’s mandated 5 minutes of 5-on-5 overtime at the end of regulation during the regular season.
And I have the numbers to prove it.
Between the Bulldogs men and women, I’ve covered 45 nontournament regular season games that have gone into overtime. Of those, only 13 times a winner emerged from the NCAA’s mandated 5-minute OT. That’s a measly 29%.
So I was ecstatic when my colleague, Brad Schlossman, of the Grand Forks Herald wrote the NCHC is pushing to eliminate those useless 5 minutes and instead have regular season games go straight to 3-on-3 overtime, followed by an if-necessary shootout.
The NCHC’s proposal is by no means a new concept. It’s what every other junior and professional hockey league does across the globe.
The hangup — besides those Sam Adams-drinking fuddy-duddies in the Northeast — will be how games that end with 3-on-3 or shootouts impact the system used to select at-large teams and then seed the NCAA tournament, known as the Pairwise rankings.
Almost everyone agrees a 3-on-3 or shootout win should not be worth the same as a regulation victory. And when it comes to league standings, the point structure is well established across the sport to account for this. The OT/shootout winner gets two of a possible three points and the loser gets one.
So how do we convert that to a system for Pairwise, which uses a formulation known as the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) to value wins? That’s what is up for heated debate, even among those in favor of bringing 3-on-3 to the entire NCAA.
Using the traditional league standings point structure, where an OT/shootout win is worth two-thirds of a regulation win, college could give the winner 66% of the victory and the loser 34%.
Or since there are 40% less skaters on the ice during 3-on-3 than 5-on-5, award just 60% to the winner.
Hockey East, once a holdout to settling ties in any matter, has reportedly proposed a 55-45 split of OT/shootout results, which might be the compromise necessary to get those who still believe in the mythical creature known as “a good tie” on board with the change.
I understand that giving the loser of a game so much, and the winner so little, is unsettling to many, but college hockey is at a point where its overtime structure has become so confusing to fans and current and future players that something needs to be done.
The NHL has been using 3-on-3 overtime periods for five seasons now, and there hasn’t been a tie in the NHL for over 16 years (April 4, 2004). College hockey needs to get with the times and worry about the math of 3-on-3 later.