NCHC meetings: Minor change likely coming to league's postseason format

May 3—GRAND FORKS — A minor change is likely on the way to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's postseason tournament.

In December, the league announced all nine teams — Arizona State joins this summer — will make the conference playoffs and the bottom two seeds will compete in a play-in game at the site of the No. 1 seed.

But there was strong movement at the annual meetings in Naples, Fla., this week to eliminate the play-in game.

If a change is officially approved, as expected, the last-place team will not qualify for the NCHC playoffs beginning this upcoming season.

The league initially wanted to keep all teams engaged through the end of the season by knowing a playoff berth awaited. But the cost of traveling two teams to play a mid-week game, which figures to be poorly attended, made athletic directors and coaches re-think the idea.

In 2024-25, the NCHC playoffs are expected to feature four best-of-three quarterfinal series at the site of the higher seed. Then, the semifinals and championship will occur in St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

In 2025-26, the tournament will move entirely to home sites. The four quarterfinals matchups will be best-of-three series. The semifinals and championship will occur the following two weekends in single-game formats.

The NCHC currently allows teams to travel 23 players on the road for regular-season conference games.

There have been a few exceptions. If a team can clinch the Penrose Cup, the league will allow a team to travel its whole roster, but it will have to declare which 23 are eligible to play.

There was a push this week to do away with travel limits.

UND, which usually carries a 25- or 26-man roster, does not like having to leave three or four players home.

Other teams believe it could help with player retention if everyone is able to make trips. In the transfer portal era, those left home frequently end up transferring at the end of the season.

It is unclear what policy the NCHC will adopt after the discussions.

The NCHC will be at nine teams beginning this fall with the addition of Arizona State.

While the league surely desires an even number of teams, there was no talk about expansion this week.

There also was no chatter about any team desiring to leave the league.

So, for the time being, it will remain at nine.

* Former Omaha head coach and executive associate athletic director Mike Kemp was awarded the NCHC Distinguised Service Award.

* The NCHC staffs held a golf outing at Tiburon Golf Club on Tuesday. The winning foursome was Colorado College assistant Andrew Oglevie, Miami ops director Adam Phillips, Minnesota Duluth assistant Cody Chupp and Omaha assistant Bennett Hambrook. UND associate coach Dane Jackson was on the second-place team along with Arizona State assistant Alex Hicks and Western Michigan assistants Jason Herter and J.J. Crew. UND assistant coach Dillon Simpson was on the third-place team with Minnesota Duluth assistant Adam Krause, Denver assistant Ryan Massa and St. Cloud State assistant Clark Kuster.