After months of speculation, the WCHA men’s hockey tournament finally has a format.
And after weeks of discussion, the league’s board of directors ended up going with a familiar look, breaking from what other leagues around the country have done.
In a press release Tuesday, the league announced the quarterfinals will be played at high seeds March 12-14, while the semifinals and championship will be played at the site of the highest-remaining seed March 19-20.
In the quarterfinals, the league’s top four teams will each host a best-of-three series. The four winners will advance to single-elimination semifinals, a major change from previous years as this round has also been a best-of-three in the past. The semifinals, along with a one-game championship, will be played at the home site of the highest remaining seed to advance past the quarterfinals.
The winner of the tournament will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman, who is on the board, said many factors were considered, including cost and health factors. However, in the final analysis, there was one thing the board kept going back to: competitive equity.
While the Big Ten and National Collegiate Hockey Conference are each doing single-elimination tournaments, Buisman pointed out that the top three teams in those leagues have essentially secured bids for the NCAA Tournament, no matter what happens in a conference tournament.
That’s not the case in the WCHA, as only Minnesota State seems to be locked into the NCAA field.
“I think with the unevenness of the schedule because of the pandemic ... we really felt that to protect the integrity of the regular season, knowing that the automatic qualifier is going to go to the tournament champion, we wanted to be as true to our normal format as possible,” Buisman said. “We wanted to make the postseason tournament a robust experience that brought competitive equity and gave everybody an opportunity, but (also) not a whim of anything can happen in a one-game matchup.”
The WCHA regular-season champion will be determined by point-percentage this season. Currently, Minnesota State (13-2-1, 10-0 in WCHA) leads in that metric at 100%, with Bowling Green in second-place with 56.7%.
There are three weeks remaining in the regular season.
Buisman said MSU is working with Minnesota Department of Health to create a plan that would potentially allow up to 1,000 fans by the time the postseason tournament arrives. Currently, sporting events are allowed to have up to 25% capacity in a respective venue, with a limit of 250.
Follow Kevin Dudley on Twitter @Dudley7Kevin.