Tuesday, May 17, 2016

WCHA playoffs move to home sites

The Final Five is no more.

On Tuesday, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association announced a new postseason structure that will move all conference tournament games, including the Broadmoor Trophy championship game, to home sites.

UPDATE: Read my full story on the Free Press website here.

The format, which will begin already at the end of the 2016-17 season, will take place over three weekends, with two rounds of best-of-three series hosted by the higher-seeded teams, followed by a single championship game between the two remaining teams at the higher seed’s home rink. The top eight of the league's 10 teams will advance to the playoffs.

“It’s all about the best experience for the college athlete – that’s our first priority – and for the fans. It’s a win-win for everyone," said Bowling Green President Mary Ellen Mazey, who is chair of the WCHA Board of Directors.

Ferris State coach Bob Daniels described the format as "forward-thinking."

Before college realignment, the WCHA Final Five packed St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center year after year. But in the three years since, it has drew small crowds to Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich. (2014, 2016) and the X (2015). It went from a revenue-producing venture for the league to a losing one. The event was to be played in St. Paul one more time, but the league opted to move on with the new format. 

Robertson said Xcel Energy Center and Minnesota Wild officials were cooperative in ending the agreement but wouldn't go into specifics.

"I can’t disclose financial information," he said. "But we made a healthy break with them, and they were supportive of our decision."

Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman said the idea came up during the league's annual meetings last month in Florida and quickly gained momentum. Robertson said the vote of all 10 schools was unanimous.

Some "stickhandling of the schedule," Buisman said, had to be done to make the format work, considering the playoffs will take up an extra weekend. Buisman said teams will still play their rivals (Bemidji State, in the case of MSU) on the final weekend of the regular season. The league's composite schedule is slated to be released on Thursday.

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