May 5, 2012 PRINT Bookmark and Share

4-on-4 Gets Little Support Among Coaches

Not Likely to Be Among Rules Committee Recommendations

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

While the face shields issue is dominating the rules discussion this year, there are a variety of other issues on the table. The most prominent of those is whether to go to 4-on-4 in overtime.

According to NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee chair Ed McLaughlin, the athletic director at Niagara, there was little support for 4-on-4 overtime among coaches during the recent convention in Naples, and the change is unlikely to be recommended for passage.

That comes as a big disappointment to Maine coach Tim Whitehead, who has been one of the most outspoken proponents of the move. Whitehead is now on the Rules Committee.

"It's disappointing," Whitehead said. "It would be great for the college game. It's the only elite league I know of not using it. I was surprised there wasn't more support for it. The online survey showed more support, but there wasn't as much in Naples.

"I didn't speak up about it this time. I'm in a position (on the rules committee) where I'm not going to push for something that the (coaching) body doesn't want."

Two years ago, the 4-on-4 overtime was also on the table, but instead of going that far, the committee instituted a more basic rule change intended to help increase scoring — making the teams switch ends for the OT. That creates long line changes, and Whitehead said that, indeed, there have been fewer ties since.

"We'll have a discussion on a whole bunch of variations," McLaughlin said. "My job is to say, 'Let's remember this is what the opinion on things was (from the coaches).'"

Meanwhile, two other rule tweaks have gotten wider support, and are expected to be passed in some form when the Rules Committee officially convenes in June at the NCAA convention in Indianapolis.

First, the seemingly age-old debate over whether to count pucks that go off skates as goals. In the NHL, a goal counts so long as there is not a "distinct kicking motion." College hockey restrictions go further, disallowing the goal if a player's motion is going towards the net, unless the player is in the process of stopping.

The rule may be relaxed further. Whitehead said he favors allowing all goals steered in off a skate, as long as the player's skate doesn't leave the ice. But at the very least, it will probably go to the NHL definition.

Second, how to count a goal when the net comes off the moorings. Currently, if the net is dislodged in any way from "its proper position" as the puck crosses the goal line, even if the net immediately returns to its moorings, the goal is disallowed. In the NHL, the referees have the discretion to call that a goal.

This come up a few times in the NCAA Tournament this year, most notably when Michigan State had the tying goal disallowed because a Union player had briefly knocked the net up in the air.

This is also likely to be changed to the NHL rule.

Other issues: hybrid icing could be looked at and tweaked, but no major changes are expected; and the two-referee system could be implemented across all levels.

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