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NCHC weighing playoff changes

April 19, 2014 Updated: April 19, 2014 at 8:40 pm
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during the first period of game at the World Arena in Colorado Springs on Saturday, October 15, 2011 (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

A strong debut season does not mean the National Collegiate Hockey Conference will not consider some changes, including to its postseason.

Commissioner Josh Fenton said the eight member school representatives asked the Colorado Springs-based league office staff to develop new playoff formats and present them for a possible vote at the league meetings in about two weeks.

"Will it be discussed? Absolutely," Fenton said.

The league office is sketching plans that include a six-team elimination tournament with two first-round campus-site series involving the bottom four seeds.

Those series winners become seeds Nos. 5-6 at the Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis with the top four teams getting a bye weekend and advancing automatically to the Target Center. The top two seeds would receive a bye into the Friday semifinals and face the winners of the Thursday quarterfinals.

Other options include all eight teams advancing to Minneapolis for a five-day tournament. Another would retain the current format of four campus-site quarterfinal series with the winners advancing to the tournament. The postseason winner garners an automatic NCAA Tournament berth.

The Target Center, which will undergo most of about $100 million in renovations over the next three years, is willing to consider changes.

"That is one of the great things about the Target Center staff," Fenton said.

It is also possible there may be no change if the league determines it would benefit financially while considering academic and scheduling demands.

Postseason profits pay 90 percent of the league operating costs, minus the officiating program, which is covered by the league members: Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan.

Fenton said the recent playoffs were a success and made a profit.

He is hopeful the renovations will further enhance the fan experience and keep them coming back, eventually to the point the event draws large crowds regardless of the teams involved. North Dakota's presence boosted the inaugural attendance; 17,252 over two sessions (8,626 average) at the 20,500-seat arena.

"We were happy with what we had in the first year but having said that, we want to sell more tickets each and every year until we don't have any more to sell," Fenton said. "Our two top priorities are to make this the best possible experience for the students and the fans. If we do so, we are doing things correctly. Certainly, there were a lot of things we did well. There are certainly things we will tweak and improve on for the future. I would classify this season as a success."

Other offseason tweaks focus on streamlining internal processes, including the supplemental discipline process, and eliminating redundancy in bylaws and procedures.

Other positives include an active fan outreach via social media and league web site, and a proactive officiating program that focused on training officials during the season.

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