Overtime Rules, Pregame Protocol Adjusted at ACHA Annual Meeting

The annual ACHA meeting, held in Naples, FL from April 27th through 29th, generated several new rules affecting the Penn State Women's Ice Hockey Club and their Women's Division 1 opponents for the 2017-18 season and beyond.

While the changes weren't quite as drastic as those introduced last year, then including an overhaul of the format for the ACHA National Tournament and the implementation of a weekly ranking, the adjustments will nevertheless impact every game played, either directly or indirectly.

Headlining the new rules is a shift to a 3-on-3 format for overtime, just one year after the five-minute extra period was reduced from standard 5-on-5 gameplay to 4-on-4, and mirroring the popular and manically-paced setup introduced in the National Hockey League for the 2015-16 season. Penn State played just one overtime game under the previous reduced-player rule, taking a 2-1 decision over Vermont back on October 1, 2016 - although Cassie Dunne's winner came during a 4-on-3 power play and not during 4-on-4 play.

Contests that don't produce a goal during overtime will still end in a tie.

Another change, pushed heavily by Adrian head coach Brett Berger, will be a move towards a modified version of what's called "NCAA protocol" during the warmup period prior to games. Previously, most contests (Adrian-hosted tilts being notable as exceptions) would open with a ten-minute warmup at the beginning of the scheduled ice time, then proceed directly into the starting lineups, national anthem and the first period's puck drop. Under NCAA protocol, teams leave the ice after the warmup skate for an additional ice cut before returning for the pregame ceremonials and the game itself. The protocol adjustment will be "suggested" for the coming season, then mandatory in 2018-19.

Player selection for national awards was also addressed. This past season saw the process streamlined so that only first-team all-conference selections were eligible for All-American status, while only conference players of the year and coaches of the year were considered for the national versions of those honors.

This methodology was further clarified in Naples, with some modifications: each team will be allowed to submit one "wild card" player who did not make first-team all-conference for All-American consideration, while teams unattached to one of ACHA Division 1's three conferences (which included Liberty and McKendree during 2016-17) will be allowed to nominate three players total. Every first team All-American will be considered for the ZoĆ« M. Harris Player of the Year award, with voting for all awards done by Division 1's competition committee.

For the first time ever in 2017, every ACHA division held its national championship tournament in the same city, Columbus, OH, within an 11-day period in March. The tournaments will return to Columbus next season, from March 8th through 18th, 2018. One resolution passed at Naples involves having the women's tournament - if possible - open on a Friday, with the national title game on a Tuesday, in order to minimize missed class time (the 9th through the 13th is the only Friday-Tuesday window within the scheduled nationals dates). Women's D1 national tournament games are tentatively slated for the OhioHealth Ice Haus adjacent to the Columbus Blue Jackets' downtown Nationwide Arena, although that could change due to scheduling demands. Go Live Sports Cast will offer video streaming of all games, as they did this past season.

Other items discussed, with no action taken, included concussions, statistics tracking, officiating and the elimination of the postgame handshake line.

The 2017-18 season will also see changes to the ACHA Division 1 membership, which will total 24 teams, up one from the 2016-17 total. Most significantly from a Penn State perspective, however, is a departure: Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League rival Vermont, which is returning to its previous home in Division 2 after six Division 1 seasons. The move leaves the Lady Ice Lions' conference's membership at just four teams, including PSU, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Northeastern. While the ECWHL has never been particularly massive in its history (it has only included more than six teams from 2005 through 2007 since its 2003 founding, and held up with four previously from 2008 through 2010), it now stands two members shy of the required six to regain an ACHA National Tournament autobid for its champion.

The Catamounts are notable as the opponent for a late-season Lady Icers sweep to clinch the 2011-12 ECWHL regular season title, as well as for PSU's first games after moving up from D2 in 2014-15, another pair of blue-and-white wins.

Michigan's Aquinas College, a team that began life in 2015 and is fresh off of its first nationals appearance at the Division 2 level, will be joining Division 1 and the Central Collegiate Women's Hockey Association. The jump won't be entirely foreign territory for the Saints, who played nine CCWHA opponents last season and managed to win a series against Ohio State. The other addition to the division is Grand Canyon University's new program. The Phoenix-based squad will play in the Western Women's Collegiate Hockey League.

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