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Changes Recommended To NCAA Hockey RPI Calculation, Women’s Tournament May Remove “Minimize Flights” Rule

Some intriguing changes upcoming for the men’s & women’s hockey Pairwise

NCAA 2004 Women’s Frozen Four - Harvard vs St. Lawrence Photo by J Rogash/Getty Images

A few years back, the NCAA quietly made changes to the NCAA women’s hockey selection criteria that weren’t noticed by any of us until January of that same season. Thanks to the sharp eyes of one of the nation’s premier hockey writers, Nicole Haase, we’re at least aware of a minor recommended change for the upcoming season before the first drop of the puck that will apply to both the men and women.

According to the report of the NCAA Women’s Hockey Committee summer meetings, a formal recommendation has been put forth for RPI to be calculated differently for games that are decided in overtime:

Recommendation: That the method for computing RPI credit for games decided in overtime be revised to award partial credit to both teams. The computation of the RPI would be adjusted to award 90 percent of a win to the team scoring in overtime, and 10 percent of a win to the opponent. Corresponding adjustments will be made as applicable in the Quality Win Bonus (QWB) calculation. Games ending in a tie (or in the optional 3x3 additional overtime period) will continue to award 50 percent of a win to each team.

These changes, they note, are recommended for both men’s and women’s hockey.

This recommendation is consistent with membership surveys that indicated strong support for a partial-credit overtime model. This recommendation is also concurrent with the same 90 percent/10 percent overtime credit model the Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee is proposing.

Essentially, coaches wanted teams that forced overtime — or were taken to overtime — to be given some credit for playing to a tie game for 60 minutes, even if a goal decides the game in OT.

In practice, changes to RPI will be tiny to the point of being pretty much negligible over the course of a full season. But it’s possible that two teams that are nearly tied in the PWR/RPI would be flipped based on one team taking a good opponent to overtime once or twice.

Of course, this is just another band-aid over a system that would do well to just switch over to KRACH or something more mathematically sound... but that’s a pipe dream at this point.

In other related and definitely more impactful news, it looks like the annual screaming over the directive to “minimize flights” in women’s hockey may finally be coming to an end.

There seems to have been enough backlash — finally — to potentially remove that requirement.

From the meeting minutes:

Championship flights – quarterfinals: The committee discussed the impact on quarterfinal pairings when the bracket is determined by fewest number of flights, as opposed to the relative strength of the teams as determined by the committee during selections. The primary concern is that true bracket integrity is disrupted when flights are eliminated. The committee will assess the impact of an additional flight(s) for the championship and put forward a formal recommendation in February.

It only took the inevitable “Top team was forced to play the #5 seed in the quarterfinal” we’ve all expected would happen for years, but at least we might get some meaningful change out of it soon.

We reached out to the new chair of the NCAA Women’s Hockey Selection Committee, Abbey Strong of Minnesota-Duluth, to clarify the timing of these changes as they seemed to be ambiguous — particularly the potential changes to minimizing flights.

Per Ms. Strong:

The recommendation to add a flight request has an effective date of September 1, 2019 for the 2019-20 season. The request to add partial credit for OT in the RPI calculation will request that this be put into effect for this year.

We’ll know if the requests are finalized upon release of this year’s men’s and women’s pre-championships manuals which are released around December, but it does seem likely that the RPI change, at least, will take effect. We’ll know more about the women’s hockey flights situation next year.