ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is the only NCAA hockey conference completely contained within "The State of Hockey's" borders and enjoys a storied tradition on the ice. However, things will look a little different - especially in the men's standings - starting next season as the conference announced several exciting changes to take effect in 2013-14.
Last season, the NCAA officially added a shootout to its rule book as a way to settle overtime ties, and the MIAC men will take advantage of that opportunity as the first conference in NCAA Division III to adopt the shootout for conference games. In addition, the MIAC men's standings will change to a three-point system, with three points awarded for a regulation win, two for an overtime or shootout win, one for an overtime or shootout loss and no points for a regulation loss.
Under the old points system - two points to the winner, or one apiece in a tie - the parity in the MIAC was exemplified. By moving to a three-point system, and adding the shootout, the MIAC coaches are hoping the championship and Playoff seeds will have a better chance to be decided on the ice, rather than in complicated tiebreaking scenarios. The coaches proposed and adopted the changes, which were then approved by the MIAC Athletic Directors and Faculty Athletic Representatives.
"The addition of the shootout and the modified points system add to the anticipation of the 2013-14 MIAC men's hockey season," said MIAC Executive Director Dan McKane. "The shootout will be an exciting feature for our student-athletes and fans, and it will give all the hard-fought overtime games a thrilling conclusion. Also, it will give our teams a better chance to determine the order of the standings in competition, rather than tiebreakers."
For example, heading into the final weekend of the 2012-13 regular season, there was a possible six-way tie looming for first place. In that scenario, one of the co-champions would have been left out of the five-team MIAC Playoff field. And eight of the nine teams had a shot to qualify for a spot in the conference's postseason tournament with two games left in the regular season.
During the conference regular season, 10 games went to overtime, with six of those ending in a tie. By determining a winner in those contests, clarity should be added to the standings and Playoff seeds. Rewarding a team who finished regulation tied with one point, and adding a fan-friendly, exciting element with the shootout were added benefits that pushed the proposal over the top.
The shootout will follow NCAA protocol. Each team will select three players to take alternating shots. If there is still a tie following three attempts for each team, one player from each team will shoot until a winner is decided. The ice will not resurfaced, as the shootout will begin immediately following the five minute overtime period if a tie still exists.
There are also a pair of important changes to the MIAC women's hockey landscape starting this season. The women will move to a four-official system, mirroring a change the MIAC men made a year ago. Without checking in the women's game, coaches and administrators were unsure if the fourth official - an additional linesman - was needed. But after seeing the success it had on the officiating in the men's conference, the women followed suit this year.
The women's coaches also elected to adjust the schedule of the MIAC Women's Hockey Playoffs to also mirror the men's format. Instead of playing all three postseason rounds in a five-day stretch, the women will now have the lone quarterfinal game between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds on the Friday following the regular season, with the two semifinal games to follow on that Saturday. The championship will remain on the following Saturday.
"Adding a fourth official to women's hockey in the MIAC is a positive change that will help keep our student-athletes safe on the ice, and will allow our officials to maximize their potential as well," McKane said. "The women's change in Playoff format will also be a benefit to the conference, with an exciting weekend of quarterfinal and semifinal play, and the two finalists having additional time to prepare and recuperate for the postseason championship game."
There is one other change to the hockey landscape for both the men and women, passed down by the NCAA. Previously, the hockey start date was Oct. 15, meaning teams could begin practicing and playing on that date. This year, the NCAA better defined the start of the season, adding a contest start date of Nov. 1 to ensure student-athletes receive two weeks of preparation before competing. If Nov. 1 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, teams may begin competing that Friday.
In addition to the hockey legislative changes, the MIAC is announcing changes in other sports as well that will alter the conference landscape in 2013-14. Monday, the MIAC announced that the MIAC Tennis Playoffs will being a new format this season, and further announcements will detail changes in women's basketball, baseball and football, as well as an announcement of a new MIAC award. Stay tuned to the MIAC web site throughout August as details are released.