It appears as though regional tournaments in NCAA Division I hockey indefinitely will remain intact.
There had been some sentiment among coaches to return campus sites for NCAA tournament play because the regionals, particularly the ones at venues in the Midwest, weren’t drawing well.
But Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna reported that the discussion at the recent American Hockey Coaches Association convention in Naples, Florida, revealed that the vast majority of coaches and athletic directors favor the current format.
The setup includes four four-team regionals, two at sites in the East and two at venues in the Midwest. The four winners advance to the Frozen Four.
Last season’s regionals were held in Providence, Rhode Island; Manchester, New Hampshire; South Bend, Indiana; and Fargo, North Dakota.
Next year’s regionals are scheduled for the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio; the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts; the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota; and the Times Union Center in Albany, New York.
“I don’t think anything will change,” Bertagna said. “I know our Hockey East coaches were pretty strongly in favor of keeping it the way it is.”
“It’s the fairest way to do it,” Maine coach Red Gendron said. “It’s a better experience for our student-athletes. Getting to go to a regional site instead of a college rink enhances the experience.”
The state of Maine has never hosted a Division I hockey regional, but in October the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland will be the site of the IceBreaker Tournament, which kicks off the college season. Maine is the host school.
That could set the stage for a bid to host a regional.
“That is certainly a possibility,” Gendron said Wednesday.
Bertagna and Gendron said another common topic of conversation was goaltender interference.
Bertagna, a former Harvard University goalie who has his own goaltending school, feels goalies are overprotected and several goals were wrongly disallowed because of the goaltender interference rule.
“I’m usually on the goalies’ side, but this has gone too far,” Bertagna said. “We still need to protect the goalies, but there needs to be clarifications to the rule that give referees a little more discretion to look at plays.
“If a guy makes contact with a goalie in the crease, they (referees) need to ask, did it really affect the play? There were some good hockey goals that were disallowed,” he added.
Gendron pointed out that there are more goals allowed in the National Hockey League when “there is some form of incidental contact that doesn’t impact the goalie’s ability to play his position.”
Many of them would have been disallowed in college.
“If a goalie isn’t in any danger and his ability to play his position in the blue ice (crease) isn’t impacted, the rule shouldn’t be applied,” Gendron said. “All of hockey is struggling to find ways to create more offense. Everyone plays so well defensively and the goalies are bigger and more athletic than they’ve ever been. You’ve got to get through layers of defense to get to the net and then you’re facing a goalie who covers most of the net.”
Even though this isn’t a rule-change year — the NCAA rule book can only be amended every other year — Bertagna said the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee still can tweak rules or clarify them at their June meeting.
In other news, Bertagna would like to see Hockey East adopt the video review of major penalties conducted in NCAA tournament games for its Hockey East tournament games.
It was used only in the NCAA tournament this past season to assess whether a five-minute major penalty should have included a game misconduct or a game disqualification. A game disqualification carries with it an automatic one-game suspension. A game misconduct doesn’t.
“I think we need to take a second look. I’d hate to see a guy receive a game disqualification and miss the next game when he should have received a game misconduct,” Bertagna said.
Gendron said he would also like video review used to potentially downgrade a five-minute major to a two-minute minor.
“Why not give officials the latitude to change a major to a minor?” Gendron posed.