College hockey’s overtime format, which Penn State fans got a glimpse of last Saturday when Michigan State beat the Nittany Lions in a shootout, is extremely outdated.
If two teams are tied at the end of the third period, one additional five-minute period is played with both teams deploying five skaters on the ice. If no goals are scored after this five-minute stretch, the game goes down as a tie in the national standings, regardless of whether or not there is a shootout.
Last Saturday’s Michigan State-Penn State game will go down as a tie in the national standings, but Michigan State picked up an extra point in the Big Ten standings because of the shootout victory. As far as non-conference games are concerned, shootouts aren’t even held; the games just end in ties if the score is still knotted at the end of overtime.
Over the past two decades, the NHL has worked to make overtime more exciting, but, unfortunately, the NCAA has yet to follow in its footsteps. In 1999, the NHL implemented a 4-on-4 format for overtime in order to cut down the number of ties. Ties were completely eliminated and replaced with the current shootout format prior to the 2005-06 season.
Despite these changes, the NHL wasn’t satisfied with the number of games being settled in the five-minute overtime period. As a result, the NHL introduced perhaps its best rule change to date prior to the 2015-16 season: 3-on-3 overtime.
In its first three seasons of existence, 3-on-3 has produced some of the most exciting moments in hockey. The amount of open ice the players has given some of the league’s best the chance to showcase their speed and skill. Most importantly, 3-on-3 has helped the NHL cut down the number of shootouts deciding games.
If the NCAA implements 3-on-3 in the college game, fewer games will end in ties — a result the top hockey league in the world completely eliminated more than ten years ago. The fact that ties still exist in college hockey is a major flaw in an otherwise great sport.
Ties are undoubtedly the least satisfying result in sports, so any measure to eliminate them from college hockey will help grow the sport and simply make it more fun to watch. Imagine Guy Gadowsky’s high-flying system and players in a 3-on-3 setting. The Nittany Lions could be the best 3-on-3 unit in all of college hockey.
Denis Smirnov is one of the smoothest skaters and puck-handlers in the country. He is just one of the many Penn Staters who would thrive in 3-on-3 — his speed, shot, and strength on the puck could be deadly for opponents. Andrew Sturtz’s goal-scoring touch and sheer will to win would cause chaos on both ends of the ice.
So many of Guy Gadowsky’s other forwards would thrive in 3-on-3; Evan Barratt, Nate Sucese, Brandon Biro, and Liam Folkes are just a few of the many whose speed and offensive touch would make the Nittany Lions one of the most dangerous OT teams in the nation if the NCAA implemented 3-on-3.
On defense, Kevin Kerr, Trevor Hamilton, Cole Hults, and Erik Autio all have games suited for 3-on-3 hockey. Their passing abilities and smooth skating strides would help Penn State win plenty of games extending beyond 60 minutes.
The lack of 3-on-3 overtime shows the NCAA’s rendition of hockey is outdated and less exciting compared to the NHL. Implementing the system would make the game much more exciting and could even help Penn State win games that extend beyond three periods.