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NCAA Rules Committee proposes 4-on-4 OT among other changes

The changes still needs to be approved next month, but would take effect for the 2016-17 season.

Matt Dewkett

One of the last places in the hockey world to see 5-on-5 overtime could be no more. Meeting this week, the NCAA Rules Committee proposed Friday changing men's and women college hockey games from having a mandatory five minute sudden death 5-on-5 overtime period to 4-on-4 during regular season games.

Postseason conference and NCAA Tournament games would still use the current 5-on-5 sudden death format with twenty minute periods.

The change still needs to be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on July 20. If that happens, the new overtime rules would take effect for the 2016-17 season.

The NHL and AHL, among other leagues, have long gotten away from 5-on-5 overtime during the regular season and currently use 3-on-3 to decide games that need more than 60 minutes.

Under the current format, 59 of the 60 men's D1 teams this past season had at least one tie on its record.

"In our review of the game, it is clear that goal scoring is continuing to trend down," said Tom Anastos, chair of the committee and head men's coach at Michigan State University in a statement. "After a thorough discussion of the overtime process, and seeing the success experienced by the National Hockey League and others using four-on-four, we believe this change will be a positive step for NCAA hockey. Our committee is charged with finding a balance in making changes that we believe will have a positive impact on the game, yet respect the traditions of the sport. We feel the changes we have adopted meet those objectives and will enhance our brand of hockey."

The NCAA will continue to allow conferences to add on an extra 5 minute 3-on-3 period and/or a shootout for conference point purposes.

Presently the NCHC is the only conference to have a 3-on-3 period and shootout, having implemented it prior to last season. The Big Ten and WCHA women's conference games utilize shootouts to decide a third league point. (Prior to its demise the CCHA also utilized a shootout for conference purposes.) None of these extra periods count for NCAA purposes. Those games go down officially as a tie nationally for Pairwise purposes.

How exactly the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) criteria for overtime losses could also change with 4-on-4 overtime.

Other changes proposed by the NCAA Rules Committee during this week's meetings in Indianapolis include a rule requiring officials and players to wear helmets anytime that they are on the ice other than for the playing of the National Anthem. This change comes after official Butch Mousseau passed away in March after an on-ice fall prior to a WCHA Final Five game

There's also more clarification over Rule 93.4 - coach's challenges - being used to review goals relating to offsides. They will be required for regular season games outside of the last two minutes of the game and overtime. Officials will be able to review offsides during postseason tournaments without a coach's challenge.

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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter --