|WCHA adopts playoff format, 28-game league schedule (UPDATED 6-15)|
|Written by By KEVIN GORDON/Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor|
|Thursday, 14 June 2012 18:51|
Western Collegiate Hockey Association teams will play a 28-game league schedule and the league’s nine teams will all make the playoffs when play begins with the 2013-14 season.
But the league is still looking to finalize a site for the WCHA Final Five.
The league-game schedule and playoff format were among the items approved by WCHA members this week.
Bowling Green is one of five Central Collegiate Hockey Association schools that will join the WCHA for the 2013-14 season when all of college hockey’s realignment takes affect.
The other CCHA schools headed to the WCHA are Alaska (Fairbanks). Ferris State, Lake Superior and Northern Michigan.
The nine-team league will be completed by WCHA members Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State (Mankato).
The WCHA held three days of meetings in Detroit, and those meetings concluded Thursday.
The meetings were attended by the league’s coaches, athletic directors and presidents.
Following is a look at the areas addressed by the league:
The 28 league games will consist of 14 home games and 14 away games. Teams will play six opponents four times each and two opponents twice each.
The league also considered a 24-game league schedule.
Currently, the CCHA and the WCHA both play 28 league games.
The major difference is a 24-game schedule means four more non-conference games.
The NCAA allows a maximum of 34 games, but teams can play an extra game for each contest they play in Alaska.
If the league had played a balanced 32-game league schedule, four games against each opponent, that would leave room for only two non-league games.
“We looked at everything across the board in terms of scheduling,” BG athletics director Greg Christopher said.
For teams that will play two games at each Alaska school in the same season, the league will try to schedule those games on the same trip, most likely during the school’s fall, Thanksgiving or Christmas break.
The Alaska schools will continue to assist the other league members will the costs of those trips.
Because of its location, BG was well positioned for a 24-game league schedule had it been adopted. Some schools prefer a 28-game league schedule because it’s harder for them to schedule non-league games, especially at home.
“We’re excited about joining the WCHA, and we’re looking forward to the competition,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said.
Christopher said the WCHA’s 2013-14 league-game schedule has been given out to member schools.
The nine-team playoff format will reward the regular-season champion with a bye to the Final Five.
The remaining eight teams will play best-of-3 quarterfinal series at campus sites to advance to the Final Five.
But to save money and because of the league’s geography, the Alaska schools will play each other in the first round every year unless one of the them wins the regular-season championship, the Bemidji Pioneer and the Mankato Free Press reported.
The WCHA was concerned about the cost of paying for two Alaska trips (whether it be for teams to go to Alaska or paying for the Alaska schools to come to the Lower 48) in the playoffs. The league uses the playoffs to make money.
By playing each other in the first round every year, an Alaska school is guaranteed to be in the Final Five.
The league also considered not having every team make the playoffs, including formats with four, six and eight teams. It also considered dropping the first round entirely.
The 11-team CCHA and 12-team WCHA both have an all-in playoff format.
By having fewer teams in the playoffs, the regular season would have been worth more.
“We thoroughly explored every option,” Christopher said.
WCHA Final Five
The league is still exploring sites for the Final Five.
Christopher said the league had “narrowed the field,” but referred questions to WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod.
Christopher said the league preferred to play the Final Five “at a neutral site.”
McLeod couldn’t be reached for comment.
The league is believed to be looking at playing its Final Five at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., alternating with the Big Ten Conference.
The CCHA holds its Final Four at Detroit, while The WCHA takes six teams to the Xcel Energy Center.
The Big Ten Conference will hold its league playoffs at the Xcel Energy Center in 2014 and 2016, and at Joe Louis Arena in 2015 and 2017. The WCHA would then do the opposite — JLA in 2014 and 2016 and the Xcel Energy Center in 2015 and 2017.
The Final Five most likely would start with the two lowest remaining seeds playing the first day, followed by the semifinals the second day, and the championship the third day. The CCHA has a consolation game, but the WCHA does not.
McLeod told The Mining Journal in Marquette, Mich. earlier this week the league is “awfully close” to finalizing its plans for the Final Five.
McLeod told the Journal the WCHA is “pretty firm” on one site, but details were still being worked out for a second site.
The Journal reported that site, however, will not be the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis. because the arena has a scheduling conflict because it already hosts the Wisconsin girls state basketball tournament.
The decision will be influenced, at least partly, by how much money each arena would give the WCHA.
But attendance is a concern.
The CCHA semifinals in March drew a combined total of only 10,421 for games between BG and Michigan, and Western and Miami. BG sold the most tickets for Friday’s games.
But if the WCHA decides to go a smaller arena, it could go to the Huntington Center in Toledo, which has a capacity of about 7,500; or Amsoil Arena (capacity 6,600) in Duluth, Minn.
That’s in contrast to Joe Louis Arena at approximately 21,000 and the XCel Energy Center at 18,000. Both arenas are home to NHL teams.
But the site selection will be influenced, in part, by what each arena offers the league financially, Christopher said.
Other topics discussed at the meeting included expansion and identifying potential future members, but no decisions were made.
Alabama-Huntsville is the most-mentioned school to join the league, although the CCHA held discussions last year with four members of Atlantic Hockey — Canisius, Mercyhurst, Niagara and Robert Morris.
An even number of schools makes scheduling easier.
The league also updated its bylaws.
Also, Christopher said it’s the WCHA’s “top priority” to have the Final Five on television.
Television of regular-season games will be left to the individual schools. Schools already are streaming their games on the Internet.
The WCHA also agreed on a change in governance that will have the Presidents Council act as the board of directors and the athletic directors will serve as the Management Council.
The Presidents Council also created a steering committee to coordinate and handle major issues going forward.
The committee consists of Christopher and Michigan Tech athletics director Suzanne Sanregret; and presidents Richard Davenport of Minnesota State, and Dave Eisler of Ferris State.
“The meetings were very positive,” Christopher said. “We did a lot of blocking and tackling, the basics, in terms of the structure of the league.”
|Last Updated on Friday, 15 June 2012 15:06|
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