The Mack Report

Hockey East to expand playoff format starting with 2013-14 season

Starting next season, Hockey East will expand its playoff format, qualifying each of the league’s teams for the postseason tournament and eliminating a week from the regular season in order to accomodate for the extra postseason games, The Eagle Tribune has learned.

Currently, Hockey East is the only conference in the nation that does not qualify all of its teams, taking the top eight finishers from the 10-team league into tournament play and eliminating the bottom two teams in the standings.

Starting with the 2013-14 season when Notre Dame joins the conference, all 11 teams will qualify. The top five teams will receive first-round byes with the remaining six playing on the extra weekend to determine the final three opponents for the four quarterfinal series. When Connecticut joins in 2014-15, all 12 teams will qualify, with the top four teams receiving first-round byes and the bottom eight playing for entry into the quarterfinals.

Under the new format, teams seeded fifth through eighth in the regular season will host the first-round (once Connecticut becomes the 12th team in 2014-15). The added first-round games will either be a single-elimination or a best-of-3 series, a detail that has yet to be determined.

“We have to vet it a little more and take a vote,” Hockey East comissioner Joe Bertagna told The Eagle Tribune. “We have some time. We did agree ahead of time that there would be an extra round and we will have three weekends of playoffs, it’s just a matter of the details. We agreed ahead of time because we needed to make up the schedules.”

The playoff expansion came from a recommendation by the coaches and athletic directors.

“If each of the two rounds goes three games, you could have a team playing eight games over three weekends, which you would never see in the regular season,” Bertagna said. “We need to examine how this will affect the athletes and the facilities. This is also the first time we’ll be flying a team to a playoff round if Notre Dame is coming east or if we are sending a team out there, so there are cost ramifications to that as well. There are a lot of things still that have to be considered, but it’s a direction we’re moving in.”

The athletic directors meet next on Sept. 18.