Will we ever see 4-on-4 overtime in college hockey?

To most, the summer months may seem like a relatively quiet time in the world of college hockey.

What a lot of fans may not realize is that behind the scenes, coaches and league administrators are hard at work preparing for the upcoming season.

A hot topic among college hockey fans, in particular those in Hockey East, in which the University of Maine competes, is whether the league should consider going to a 4-on-4 overtime format.

Currently, the league uses a 5-on-5 format for a five-minute overtime period, with each team getting one point for a tie. An overtime win nets a winning team two points while the losing team doesn’t get any, unlike in the NHL where you get a point for an overtime loss.

Earlier this week, the NCAA announced a proposed 4-on-4 format, which would’ve been required for all regular-season games, was put on hold. Postseason play, which uses a standard, 5-on-5, 20-minute period until a goal is scored, would not have been effective.

The idea behind a 4-on-4 overtime is to open up the ice more and allow teams more chances to score goals. The NHL’s 3-on-3 format produces an exciting, end-to-end style of hockey that produces a lot of scoring chances. Frankly, I like the 3-on-3 overtime format far better than shootouts.

The news that the 4-on-4 format proposal was put on hold was not surprising. UMaine coach Red Gendron has expressed that he is not on board with the proposal.

“I’m not in favor of it,” Gendron told the BDN’s Larry Mahoney in a prior story. “I want to know what the purpose is. If you’re going to change the game, you have to have compelling evidence that it’s going to make the game better.”

One pro I can see for the 4-on-4 format is the reduction of ties. Often times, you’ll see a team content to sit back and play for one point as opposed to being aggressive and going for two points.

Going forward, I’d also like to see a scenario similar to one in the NHL where a single point is awarded for an overtime loss. In the coming years, I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a 4-on-4 overtime format in Hockey East.

In addition to the overtime rule, the NCAA also announced this week that we will now see coaches challenges in college hockey.

Challenges will be required in situations in which a coach wants a goal reviewed pertaining to offsides or too many men on the ice calls. Coaches will not be able to challenge these calls in the final two minutes of a game or in overtime.

While I understand the need for officials to get calls right, I haven’t warmed up to the idea of coaches challenges in hockey. Hockey is a fast paced, end-to-end game that can be snarled when a coach challenges a play.

Coaches’ challenges in the NFL are just fine. They’ve been a part of professional football for nearly two decades now. But challenges in the NHL and Major League Baseball are just ridiculous, and it’s hard to fathom that we’re going to see them in college hockey now.

In the meantime, we’re closing in on two months until Maine opens its regular season against RPI. I’m not trying to wish the rest of summer away, but the drop of the puck at Alfond Arena is something we can all look forward to.


Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.