Hockey

Player safety at heart of overtime change

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The Ohio High School Athletic Association was left with an unenviable decision in the hockey state final last winter.

Cleveland St. Ignatius and Sylvania Northview were tied at 1 after seven overtimes March 8 at Nationwide Arena. With players showing signs of cramping and fatigue, the coaches for both teams agreed to end the game in a tie. It marked the first time in the 37-year history of the state tournament that teams were named co-champions.

To avoid another such situation, the OHSAA adopted overtime guidelines for postseason games during its board of directors meeting June 5.

"The first overtime will be 5-on-5. Then they'll play 4-on-4 for up to four more overtimes," said Tim Stried, OHSAA director of information services. "Then they will go to a three-player shootout. But it's still sudden victory, of course, for the previous five (eight-minute) overtimes. Rarely do games go more than a couple overtimes."

Dublin Jerome coach Pat Murphy agrees with the OHSAA's decision to impose a new overtime format for postseason games.

"It's all about the safety of the teenager," he said. "If the game gets extended so far that it's risking a player's health, then that game is no longer that important.

"A lot of people, including myself, had input on (the rule change), and it's all about player safety. Not many games go that far, but if they do, we now have policies and rules in place."

Murphy said one of his players had to receive IV therapy at an area hospital after becoming dehydrated during a 3-2, four-overtime loss to Olentangy Orange in the district final in 2012.

"No coach in his right mind would risk the health and safety of players at the high school level, ever," he said. "These new guidelines have been put in place for games that get to that stage. That (state championship) game started the whole conversation. The OHSAA responded by putting procedures in place."

Upper Arlington coach Jay Graham said something needed to happen after St. Ignatius and Northview were named co-champions.

"It's a step in the right direction because it was such a unique situation," he said. "Starting with the 5-on-5 is good and opening up the ice with the 4-on-4 also works. It makes a lot of sense and it gives the kids a chance to win it on the ice before going to a shootout situation."

Many coaches, if not most, aren't in favor of a postseason game being decided by a shootout.

"I know they do it in World Cup soccer, but I'm kind of old school when we used to keep playing until late after midnight if we were tied," Olentangy Liberty coach Jack Hoogeveen said. "I don't like the idea of single players deciding the outcome. I think maybe they also should add a 3-on-3 overtime before the shootout."

"I know (shootouts) are exciting (for fans), but I'd like to have the kids settle it on the ice," Worthington Kilbourne coach Paul Roman said. "I'm glad there are steps before going to a shootout because the kids need to decide the outcome on the ice."

St. Charles coach Rob Sangster, who guided his team to its first district title last season, isn't convinced that the OHSAA needed to adopt a new overtime format for the postseason.

"Maybe things don't need to change if it only happens once in a blue moon," said Sangster, whose team defeated Orange 3-1 in the district final March 1 before losing to Northview 3-1 in a state semifinal March 7 at Nationwide Arena. "It happens once and people say you have to do something to change it.

"Personally, someone getting a cramp is not a life-or-death situation. When you're tired and you cramp up, you need to take a little longer rest. It's highly unlikely (that a postseason game) will go through the four 4-on-4 overtimes, but in the event that it does, I don't think a game like that should be settled with a shootout. It should be settled on the ice."

The new overtime guidelines implemented by the OHSAA apply only to the postseason. During the regular season, each league determines its own overtime format.

In the Capital Hockey Conference, teams play one eight-minute, sudden-death overtime. If neither team scores in overtime, the game is ruled a tie.

"In the Blue Jackets Cup (tournament), we play until someone wins, but that could change," Murphy said. "The (OHSAA) ruling came down after the league meeting last month and we reconvene in the fall. Maybe a decision will be made then."

According to Stried, the OHSAA will monitor how the new overtime format affects the postseason and, if deemed necessary, will make additional changes.

"(A seven-overtime game) is unlikely to happen again for a while," Hoogeveen said. "Is having co-champions worse than winning by a shootout? I don't know. But now we know there are rules in place if the situation comes up again."

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