Central Hockey League fans who enjoy the drama of a shootout to end a game should expect to see less of them this season.
The CHL announced this week that overtime will be changed from 4-on-4 (plus the goalie) to a 3-on-3 format. Should a penalty occur, teams will skate 4-on-3 or 5-on-3, depending on the situation of the penalized team. If the teams are still tied, the shootout process will remain the same last season.
“It will be a lot more entertaining and result in a lot more games that are decided in overtime instead of a shootout,” said new Mavericks coach Richard Matvichuk, who had been an assistant with the two-time defending CHL champion Allen Americans.
Matvichuk added that the CHL is also adapting to changes the American Hockey League recently made to its overtime, since several CHL players have the opportunity to be called up to the AHL. That league recently announced it will have a seven-minute overtime period – 4-on-4 until the first whistle after three full minutes, at which point teams will play 3-on-3.
Matvichuk and his fellow CHL coaches will have to devote plenty of time in training camp to the 3-on-3 format (4-on-4 still is possible in the case of offsetting minor penalties). In addition to tinkering for the right combinations of forwards and defensemen, teams will have to make sure shifts don’t last too long with all the open ice, as well as time the shift changes properly.
“It’ll be trial and error,” Matvichuk said. “There will be a lot of thinking going into it. Obviously you’re not going to be changing all three at once, and you have to do it at the right opportunity.”
Matvichuk said he hasn’t talked to any Mavericks players about the change, but “I’m sure all the goal scorers are happy about it,” not to mention the more mobile defensemen who also would get more scoring chances.
Where a team sits in the standings also could affect its approach in overtime – whether it presses for the goal or concentrates more on defending its net.
“Are you happy with the extra point,” Matvichuk said, posing the question teams will ask themselves, “or do you need two?”
The CHL also announced a change regarding major penalties for fighting. Any player who receives two fighting majors in the same game will receive a game misconduct penalty, unless the second major is the result of the player’s opponent receiving an instigator penalty. In such a case, the game misconduct penalty will not apply.
“This adjustment falls in line with continued efforts by professional hockey leagues to maximize and improve player safety,” Jim Wiley, CHL Director of Hockey Operations, said in a press release.
“It’s about what’s going on with concussions and guys getting injured,” Matvichuk said.
However, the coach doesn’t think players will necessarily shy away from a fight more than before. Last season, the CHL only had two or three incidents of the same player getting in two or three fights in a game, he said.
“I don’t think it’s going to change anybody’s style of play and how they play the game,” he said.