College men's hockey: New OT format sparks creativity in NCHC

MINNEAPOLIS -- While NCHC players such as Miami forward Sean Kuraly and Minnesota Duluth defenseman Andy Welinski are excited about the addition of 3-on-3 overtime to the league this season, they might not be as excited as their coaches.

National College Hockey Conference logo

MINNEAPOLIS - While NCHC players such as Miami forward Sean Kuraly and Minnesota Duluth defenseman Andy Welinski are excited about the addition of 3-on-3 overtime to the league this season, they might not be as excited as their coaches.
The new experimental initiative has brought out the mad scientist in some.
“For coaches, it’s fun to have a new wrinkle thrown in,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said Thursday during NCHC Media Day at Target Center. “It’s exciting as a coach. Now you have to actually plan. How you are going to defend 3-on-3 is a lot different than 4-on-4.
“All that open ice, how are we going to be able to expose another team? To me, that’s exciting.”
The NCHC will be the only league in college hockey this season playing 3-on-3 overtime periods in a quest for a more fair way to determine a winner in conference games. It will be the second overtime period if a game is still tied after the initial NCAA-mandated five-minute, 5-on-5 overtime period.
Teams will receive three points in the league standings for a win in regulation or during the first overtime. If a conference game is still tied after the 5-on-5 OT period, both teams will get one point and it will go down in the NCAA record book and PairWise rankings calculations as a tie.
A team can earn an extra point in league standings by scoring during the five minutes of 3-on-3 or during the subsequent sudden-death shootout. Statistics accumulated during 3-on-3 OT will not count in conference and national statistics.
“Three-on-three is fun, it’s exciting, it’s fast, we love it as players,” Kuraly said. “It’s something I’m really happy we’re forward-looking enough to do like the NHL. It’s going to be exciting. I’d way rather decide a game off playing 3-on-3 instead of a shootout.”
Miami coach Enrico Blasi outlined some strange situations that could arise, possibly late in the season, during a 3-on-3 overtime period. Those situations could crop up during a tight race in the standings, or when penalties get called during 3-on-3.
A penalty during 3-on-3 overtime will result in a 4-on-3 advantage, or 5-on-3 for a two-man advantage. Those situations could tempt coaches to do crazy things, Blasi said.
“There could be situations where you need points and you pull the goalie and play 4-on-3,” Blasi said. “Maybe there is a penalty and you pull the goalie and make it a 5-on-3. There are all sorts of things running through our minds.”
Blasi said the key to succeeding in 3-on-3 will be capitalizing on chances because if you don’t, it could result in a disastrous odd-man rush the other way. That’s what was going through Welinski’s mind as he broke down 3-on-3 overtime.
“Only having six guys on the ice, I can’t help but think there are going to be some turnovers that result in goals if we get there,” said Welinski, UMD’s captain and a Duluth East graduate. “There is a lot of room.”
Kirk Thompson, the new starting goaltender at Nebraska-Omaha, sees a chance for goaltenders to get involved in the offense.
“I know if I make that big save, we’re going down for an odd-man rush on them,” Thompson said. “Every save you make, you’re giving your forwards another chance to score. That’s the unique thing about 3-on-3. As a goalie, you’re actually contributing to the offense by making saves so that’s kind of cool.”
The jury is still out on how teams plan to play 3-on-3. Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said it will be about feel for him. He could throw out three forwards, two forwards and a defenseman or even three defensemen if that’s who have the hot sticks on a given night.
Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais said he plans to put three forwards out every shift, and the same went for St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko.
“I am not thinking defense at all as a coach,” Blais said. “There will be other coaches who want to scheme to win the 3-on-3. I’m going to put my three most offensive-minded guys out there and hope (Thompson) stops a breakaway and moves the puck up and we have a 3-on-0 or 2-on-1 going the other way.”
While most of college hockey keeps an eye on the development of Arizona State and who from the Pac-12 might follow with a start-up program, NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton took time to stand up for the little guy Thursday during his state of the league address.
Fenton called on the NCAA to reconsider its current legislation that prevents new Division II and III programs from joining Division I sports, such as hockey. The NCAA currently has schools from all three divisions and that’s possible because Division III schools such as Colorado College and Division II schools such as UMD are grandfathered in. While Division III programs have a home in college hockey, there is no Division II. That means Minnesota State-Moorhead, for example, would have no place to play should it start a program.
“College hockey has thrived for decades on Division II and Division III institutions playing Division I hockey. This is the core of who we are,” Fenton said.
Fenton said current NCAA legislation restricting multidivisional participation isn’t preventing new programs, but it is a hurdle.
“At this point and time, if a discussion is to be had with a Division II institution, a Division III institution, that is not necessarily an option to add Division I hockey,” Fenton said. “The commissioner group of college hockey has talked at length about this and we feel strongly that hopefully opening up that particular provision within the NCAA Division I legislation could cause some to look a little more seriously about it.”
Division I men’s hockey has added two programs in the last four years with Penn State starting in 2012-13 and Arizona State beginning NCAA play this season. Penn State is part of the Big Ten, while the Sun Devils are still searching for a conference to call home.
Fenton also touted the league’s expanded national and regional television coverage, which includes eight Bulldogs games this season.
UMD is scheduled to appear on CBS Sports Network on Feb. 19 at North Dakota and Feb. 26 at St. Cloud State.
UMD will appear on Fox College Sports, Fox Sports North and Fox Sports North Plus on six occasions, including Oct. 16 at Minnesota (FSN), Oct. 17 against the Gophers in Duluth (FSN/FCS), Jan. 16 versus St. Cloud State (FSN-Plus/FCS), Feb. 5 versus Colorado College (FSN/FCS), Feb. 20 at North Dakota (FCS) and Feb. 27 at St. Cloud State (FSN-Plus/FCS).
My9 in Duluth also will carry 20 regular-season games.

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.
What To Read Next
NASCAR on Ice, an ice racing event featuring NASCAR drivers and retired cars, was postponed a second time on Wednesday due to ice conditions.
Hull was a five-time 50-goal scorer, led the NHL in goalscoring seven times, twice won the Hart Trophy and was voted a First-Team All-Star on the left wing 10 times.
Peterson’s unassisted goal lifts Springfield to the NAHL home win.
Ice cross racers are competing in three divisions during multiple days of competition at Mont du Lac Resort in Superior as part of the U.S. Ice Cross Association's annual ATSX 250 event.