Say Goodbye to the Western Tie

College hockey was the lone stronghold in the Ties Are Okay part of hockey, but those days are ending, and the WCHA has done their part, announcing today that ties in conference games are a thing of the past.  The 2-1-0 scoring structure is gone, and the 3-2-1-0 structure has arrived.  In short:

  • WCHA teams will play 5×5 for 60:00.  The winner will get 3 points.
  • Teams winning in a 5:00, 5×5 overtime will get a full 3-point win.
  • Teams winning in a subsequent 5:00, 3×3 overtime or a subsequent shootout will get 2 points, with the losing team gaining 1 point.
  • WCHA nets will be shallower — 40″, meeting the NHL standard — than the 44″ standard.

Since the new WCHA was formed in 2013-14, there have been 420 league games.  There were 12 ties in 2013-14, 12 in 2014-15, and 20 in 2015-16.  Even as much as everyone — including me! — made light of ties in the WCHA last year the tie rate faded as the season went on.

I’ll have more on this as the season goes by — this change this close to the season is pretty much submarining my chance of having a public model on October 1.  But here are my preliminary thoughts:

  • I have generally modeled overtime by looking at the amount of overtime to-date in the season (and in the past season if it’s early).  This has been a pretty good model, because the rate of overtime games is roughly even for the fact that we only have 140 games as samples.  (I could model this as a Poisson distribution, but I have better things to do with my time.)
  • I think that I’ll keep that model going forward, using overtime games from the past 140 matches as the basis for whether a game will play past 65:00.  Why?  The incentive is there for the weaker team to hold on for a single point, even if the opponent will get two.
  • After 65:00, it will be something like a coin flip, whether 50-50 or weighted by a goals-for ratio between the two teams.  Example: for those two late-season Mankato-Huntsville ties, I’d do a coin that’s weighted 82/61 between the two teams to determine a winner.
  • The frustration about this is going to be that you’ll have to keep a track of when goals are scored and games are won all season long to figure out which teams are better in a BELOW sense.  I’m going to treat a tie just like I did before and then have a follow-on kabuki dance where we come up with a winner.  While this matters for the standings that a BELOW-based model will output, it won’t matter in terms of BELOW thinking which team is better — i.e., it won’t matter who gets to break a 65:00 tie, much less how they break it.

If you have ideas or questions, leave a comment here or reply to me at @wchaplayoffs on Twitter.