By the end of the week, NCAA hockey could have a revamped overtime format, the final step in what once appeared to be a movement toward standardizing things in the rule book.
Or, in what may be emerging as a more likely conclusion, the NCAA Men's and Women's Ice Hockey Rules Committee could leave the option for conferences to take their pick of ways to finish tie games.
The rules committee meets this week, with overtime as one of the big topics on the agenda.
Joe Bertagna, the committee chair, said in January that the committee felt a mandate to emerge from this offseason with one overtime system to be used in all leagues.
In the current NCAA hockey rule book, teams play a five-minute, sudden death period at 5-on-5 if they're tied after regulation. If neither team scores, some conferences end the game; others use a shootout; and others play an NHL-style 3-on-3 session before a shootout.
Speaking last week, Bertagna cautioned that he's not going to attempt to forecast what will emerge from the committee's sessions. But he said that discussions at the coaches' meetings in Florida in April hinted at a changed tone.
"There seemed to be emerging a, 'I really don't care what other people do but this is what we want to do,'" said Bertagna, the Hockey East commissioner and executive director of the American Hockey Coaches Association.
"That's a little different than, 'There's got to be one system in the book.' We had heard that quite a bit in previous years."
Two fundamental questions will drive the debate, Bertagna said:
• Does every game need to have a winner? If so, he said, "then the only way you can have a winner is if you have shootouts."
• Does the rule book need to be simplified to contain only one system?
"That will be an interesting one to talk through, because that will foreshadow what the rest of the week's going to be like," Bertagna said. "If there's a strong majority that says, absolutely, it has to be one system, then we're in for an interesting ride.
"If there isn't a strong sense that it has to be one system, then you could emerge with the status quo."
The 12-person committee includes six coaches — four from Division I, two from Division III — and six administrators.
The Division I Men's Ice Hockey Committee also is due to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the agenda includes an item of interest to the University of Wisconsin.
The committee will discuss a Big Ten Conference request to push back the deadline for NCAA tournament automatic qualifiers by a day.
Under the current setup, conference championship games have to be played on the Saturday before the start of the NCAA tournament to allow for the automatic bids to be decided in advance of the following day's selection show.
Moving that deadline to Sunday would allow the Big Ten the flexibility to play its championship game on Sunday if there are arena conflicts at UW or Ohio State. At those schools, the home venue frequently is booked to host high school championship events during that weekend, but Sunday is available.
Meanwhile, an NCAA bylaw change approved in April will double the amount of time that coaches get to work on the ice with their teams outside of the playing season.
Starting in the 2018-19 season, teams can work on skill instruction for four hours per week during the school year, before and after the competition season. The limit had been two hours per week.