The Mack Report

Joe Bertagna talks schedule, new Hockey East playoff format

BOSTON — Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna met with the media on Friday evening at the TD Garden to discuss the 2013-14 Hockey East league schedule as well as the new playoff format, where all 11 teams (12 when UConn joints in 2014-15) will qualify for the postseason.

First, here are some highlights of the league schedule and playoff format:

- Teams 1-5 will receive byes next year (1-4 when UConn joins). In the first-round weekend, 6 hosts 11, 7 hosts 10, 8 hosts 9. When UConn joins, four teams will get byes with 5 hosting 12, 6 hosting 11, 7 hosting 10 and 8 hosting 9. The 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10 and 8 vs. 9 series will be hosted at higher seed and will be best-of-3 series.

- Notre Dame’s first Hockey East games will be 11/1 and 11/2 at Vermont.

- Notre Dame’s first home Hockey East games will be 11/15 and 11/16 vs. Merrimack.

- The 2013-2014 schedule features each school playing two league games against each opponent (as opposed to three under the existing policy).

- Notre Dame will be at Vermont, Lowell, UNH, Providence and Boston College. Merrimack, UMass, NU, Maine and BU travel to South Bend.

- HEA first round next year will be March 7-9. Quarterfinals March 14-16 and Championship Round March 21-22.

- First day of practice for all teams will be October 5.

- Merrimack will close 2013-14 with four straight home games. Two vs. UVM and tw0 vs. UNH on the final weekend. UNH-Merrimack is NOT a home-and-home.

- With the odd number of teams, UMass is left without conference games on the final weekend of the regular season (2/28 and 3/1).

- The HEA tentative composite schedule released today does not currently include any Frozen Fenway games.

Here are some highlights from Bertagna’s discussion with the media:

- He said the home-away breakdown in one year doesn’t mean much as long as it’s two home and two away over a 2-year cycle.

- When he was making the schedule, with 11 teams, each week, one team essentially as a conference “bye.” In 2014-15, UConn plugs into that “bye” slot to complete the first two-year schedule cycle.

- The new HEA format mimics the current ECAC model. The current WCHA also has 12 teams and finishes with the Final 5 and uses three days at the host venue. Bertagna said the playoff format was decided for a few reasons, one being building logistics for a “final 5″ here at TD Garden and that he didn’t feel the league could sustain three days at the Garden.

- Bertagna also noted that it wouldn’t surprise him (and me) if HEA teams scheduled a 3rd game vs. each other for a non-conference date … the biggest reason for this being Pairwise considerations.

- Bertagna also said that he hopes they can work something out as a “challenge series” with another conference and he brought up the Big 10 as a possibility.