The American Hockey League announced multiple rule changes on Friday that go into effect for the 2015-16 season.
The Board of Governors approved the adjustments this week during the league’s annual meeting in Hilton Head Island, S.C. The changes feature a five-minute 3-on-3 overtime period, a return to the divisional playoffs format and an introduction of the coach’s challenge.
The Chicago Wolves advocated for the latter rule in the wake of their Game 3 loss to the Utica Comets in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Comets won the game 2-1 in overtime, but reached the extra session on a contested third-period goal the officials decided did not require video review. Subsequent views of the replay indicated the puck never crossed the goal line.
“The coach’s challenge is something that was needed,” said Wolves general manager Wendell Young. “We actually mentioned in the Board of Governors’ meeting what happened in Utica.”
The coach’s challenge provides teams an avenue to contest one call per game. As long as his team has its timeout available, the coach can request an official video review. Only situations that are subject to review (whether a puck crossed the goal line) can be challenged. If a requested video review does not lead to an overturned call, then the team loses its timeout.
The AHL’s new overtime plan replaces last year’s seven-minute overtime period, which began with 4-on-4 play and required each team to remove a skater upon the first whistle with less than four minutes to play. A “dry scrape” will continue to precede the sudden-death overtime period. If neither team scores, then the game moves to a three-player shootout.
“I thought our concept was really good last year,” Young said. “We’ll see how it goes. Any concept that gets us out of the shootout is great.”
The AHL utilized divisional playoffs from 2003-04 to 2010-11 and the league restructured from six divisions to four earlier in the offseason in order to restore the format. The Wolves are moving into the Central Division with the Charlotte Checkers, Grand Rapids Griffins, Iowa Wild, Lake Erie Monsters, Manitoba Moose, Milwaukee Admirals and Rockford IceHogs.
The top four teams in each division earn Calder Cup Playoffs bids and battle within the division during the first two postseason rounds, though there are two exceptions to this rule. Because the Central and Atlantic Divisions feature eight teams while the North and Pacific Divisions have seven teams, the fifth-place team in the Central and Atlantic will cross over and assume the fourth-place spot in the North and Pacific if they own a superior points percentage.
“Geographically, I think it’s better this way,” Young said. “For purposes of travel, I think this is the way it should be.”
The Wolves host their 2015-16 home opener on Saturday, Oct. 11, to kick off their 22nd season at Allstate Arena. To learn more about the team’s current ticket specials, visit ChicagoWolves.com or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.