Air Force faces Army on the ice for overtime tie
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Keegan Mantaro takes the ice before the Air Force Falcons host the Army Black Knights at Clune Arena. The game ended in a tie. Photo by Liz Copan

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Atlantic Hockey gave Air Force coach Frank Serratore a birthday gift about a month early.

Games will no longer end after scoreless five-on-five overtime. Atlantic Hockey has joined the NCHC, WCHA and Big 10 in adopting 3-on-3 overtime, followed by a shootout if necessary. It will apply to regular-season, conference games only.

A more definitive ending is something Serratore publicly advocated for. A January press conference rant on the topic garnered tens of thousands of views.

“I’ve been probably the most outspoken advocate in the country,” Serratore said, adding that he discussed overtime and ties in front of the entire body at the American Hockey Coaches Association meeting in the spring. “I couldn’t be happier, but also, it’s about time.

“Like I said all along, the progressive overtime is not a gimmick anymore. It’s become part of the fabric of the modern game.”

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If a game is tied after regulation, there will still be five minutes of sudden-death overtime this season. If that ends without a goal, the game officially ends in a draw, and each team secures a standings point. The 3-on-3 overtime and shootout determine the winner of an extra point.

In a release, Atlantic Hockey highlighted the increased value of close games as teams fight for playoff position.

The league said changing the point structure was discussed, but a vote determined Atlantic Hockey would follow the lead of several others, including the Springs-based NCHC.

“It will be an exciting experiment for us this season as the first league in the east to use this system,” Atlantic Hockey commissioner Robert DeGregorio Jr. said in the release. League headquarters are in Winthrop, Mass. and Air Force is the only team outside the Northeast.

Air Force went to overtime seven times in the 2018-19 regular season and tied five times. Those points will no longer go unclaimed.

“Over the years we haven’t been a great overtime team,” Serratore said. “There’s nothing at all self-serving about my wanting to do this.”

Eventually, Serratore would like to see even more consistency between college hockey conferences, in the form of an NCAA mandate, saying it’s “silly” that leagues handle overtime differently.

He’ll argue that anything past 65 minutes should have no bearing on the RPI rankings, which contribute to NCAA Tournament at-large bids. And maybe the NHL, which did away entirely with regular-season 5-on-5 overtime in 2017 with the support of the players, has the right idea.

But for now, this will work.

“I’m happy for the fans and I’m happy for the players, because the fans love to watch it and the players want to compete,” Serratore said.

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