February 19, 2013 PRINT Bookmark and Share

On the Fly

College Hockey, Inc. Funding Continues; Hockey East Playoff Format Changes

by Mike Machnik/CHN Senior Editor

In this installment, we look at news out of College Hockey, Inc., and possible reasons for impending changes to the playoff format in Hockey East.

College Hockey, Inc. Receives Continued Funding

College Hockey, Inc., the marketing and informational arm of NCAA Division I men's hockey, will maintain its efforts on behalf of the sport as a result of continued funding from USA Hockey and the National Hockey League.

"USA Hockey and the NHL have made assurances that College Hockey, Inc. is a valued organization and its funding will continue," Nate Ewell, Deputy Executive Director of CHI told College Hockey News.

"We're grateful for their support and with that funding, and other sources, we hope to continue to build on what we've accomplished to this point."

The organization was established three years ago through resources provided by USA Hockey, through a grant from the NHL. It was recently reorganized into three regional offices located in St. Paul, Minn., Ann Arbor, Mich., and Marlborough, Mass.

Mike Snee has served as Executive Director of College Hockey, Inc., since September 2012, while Kyle Lawson was named as Director of Education and Recruitment in January.

More to Hockey East Playoff Format Change Than Meets the Eye

Next season, for the first time since 1996, all teams in Hockey East will make the playoffs. With the addition of Notre Dame to the 10-team conference in 2013 and Connecticut in 2014, the tournament will expand from its current eight teams to 11 next season and 12 the year after, with all teams participating.

CHN's Scott McLaughlin wrote recently defending the league's long-standing policy of refusing to admit all its teams to the postseason. It's been unique in that position, as for a number of years, Hockey East has been the only one of the Division I conferences to eliminate teams from the playoffs at the conclusion of the regular season.

That comes to an end after this season, and at least among fans and media, opinions on the move have been varied, with many understandably lamenting the change.

The topic came up recently with Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy, as the Warrior mentor offered some thoughts on why the league decided to alter the format.

"There's a theory that Hockey East beats itself up sometimes," said Dennehy. "That's one of the reasons we're going to every team getting in the playoffs."

When the league's membership settles at 12 in 2014-15, the format will involve three weekends instead of two and be similar to the formats used today by the ECAC and AHA. The top four will receive a bye into the quarterfinals, while the middle four will host the bottom four in first round matchups. (Next year will also see a three weekend tournament, although for one season only, the top five will receive byes while the bottom six play in the first round, also setting up an eight team quarterfinal arrangement, like the CCHA has done in recent years.)

It will mean an additional chance for those middle teams to win playoff games, games that could help their NCAA hopes — and put additional Hockey East teams into the tournament.

Last year, Dennehy's Warriors won 18 games but lost the 5-versus-4 matchup in the league quarterfinals in three games at Maine and narrowly missed an NCAA bid. The year before, it was Maine as the fifth seed that lost a series at fourth-seeded Merrimack and also didn't miss an NCAA bid by much.

In the future, finishing fifth will mean a home ice series with the last place team in the first round — a better chance at least on paper of picking up two more wins than today.

"If that were to have happened last year, and we were at home — granted, you've got to win both of those games, but we would have had home ice, the top four would have had a bye," Dennehy said.

"I think it was (Providence coach) Nate Leaman that brought it up, but (Maine coach) Timmy Whitehead said it as well. If we had gotten to 20 wins, there's a good chance we would have made the NCAA tournament."

"So what's happened the last couple of years is, Maine knocked us out last year, and we knocked them out the year before. There's got to be a way to circumvent that. Hopefully the new playoff format will do that — you want as many Hockey East teams represented in the NCAA tournament as possible."

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