Ice Hockey Committee Approves HEA Ref Change and More
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Hockey East will utilize a new officiating system this year, going to one referee, one assistant referee and one linesmen. This replaces the one referee/two assistant referee formula used in all of Division I in recent years.
The new system was approved by the Division I Men's Ice Hockey Committee at its recent meetings. The committee also said the use of the experimental system will not affect the ability of Hockey East officials to referee NCAA tournament games. In the past, officials have been prevented from working NCAA tournament games if their league uses unapproved systems.
Also at the meetings were the presentations by five cities to host the 2007 and 2008 Frozen Fours, plus other presentations by host candidates for upcoming regionals. The committee forwarded their recommendations to the NCAA Championships and Competition Cabinet, which meets June 23-26. A news conference is scheduled for June 27 to announce the Cabinet's approved locations.
In other NCAA tournament news, fans will now be able to buy split tickets to regionals instead of being forced to buy all three games at once. Those single-game tickets will go on sale the Monday after selections are announced, though all-session tickets will be cheaper as a whole, and have better seat locations.
Additionally, a price range of $60-$75 for all-session tickets was set by the committee. Last year, tickets to Worcester's regional were within that range, but there was a wide disparity with the price of Providence's regional, which was much higher.
"This will allow us to reward our loyal fans by giving them better seat locations and prices," said committee chair Ian McCaw, athletic director at Massachusetts, to the NCAA News. "However, this also gives the fans from the schools the flexibility to just buy tickets for their own game without having to buy a ticket for the championship in case their team doesn't advance."
There were no major changes made to the NCAA tournament selection and seeding process, but one area of concern was addressed regarding the "banding" system and intra-conference matchups.
The situation was brought to the forefront this year when two WCHA teams received No. 1 seeds (Minnesota and Colorado College) and two others received No. 4 seeds (St. Cloud State and Minnesota State). Under the "banding" philosophy put in place last year by the committee, teams are placed in four sets of four seeds (1-4) and can be rearranged to different regions as that seed, but cannot have their seed changed. At the same time, a team from the same conference cannot play each other in the first round. As a result, to avoid that intra-conference first-round matchup, Cornell — the No. 1 overall seed — was forced to play a much tougher No. 4 seed than either then MAAC or CHA automatic qualifier. That's because the only option for Minnesota and Colorado College were to play the MAAC and CHA qualifier, respectively.
This is only a real problem in the case of No. 1 seeds vs. No. 4 seeds, since there is such a wide disparity in ability between two of the No. 4 seeds and the other two No. 4 seeds.
One of the solutions was for the committee to give itself the flexibility to change a team's seed as a last resort. For example, the "worst" No. 3 seed could be switched with the "best" No. 4 seed to alleviate the problem. Using this year's NCAA tournament as an example, if No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 St. Cloud State were switched, there would have been another option available for Minnesota — it could've played Ohio State, leaving Cornell to face a MAAC opponent.
However, the committee decided to keep the absolute sanctity of the "banding" intact, and instead, as a different solution, voted to give itself the option of having teams from the same conference face each other in the first round.
Another potential conflict arises if five teams from the same conference are all within paired seeds. So, for example, if there are three No. 2 seeds and two No. 3 seeds all from the same conference, it's inevitable a first-round intraconference matchup will exist unless something changes.
Again, the "banding" principle was maintained, and in this case, a first-round intraconference matchup would also be allowed.
"We hope the committee is never placed in this situation," said McCaw. "However, we felt it was important to get feedback from the coaches and commissioners on this situation in case it does arise so we can deal with it effectively."
McCaw's term on the committee expires on Sept. 1. He will be replaced by New Hampshire athletic director Marty Scarano.
The rules committee also voted in favor of the recommendation by coaches to increase the fast-faceoff rule to 18 seconds instead of 15.