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Hockey: Team gives opinions about shootout rule

Sam Werner | Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Last year, Notre Dame’s Friday night game against Lake Superior State would have ended in a 3-3 tie. This year, though, the players stayed on the ice and took part in the first shootout of the Irish season.

Over the summer, the CCHA athletic directors voted to adopt shootouts as a means of resolving ties during the regular season. If the game remains tied after a five-minute sudden death overtime period, each team selects three players to participate in the shootout. If the shootout is tied after three shooters for each team, it becomes sudden death, with the teams alternating shots until one makes and one misses.

The new format has received positive reviews from Irish players.

“I love it,” Notre Dame sophomore forward Calle Ridderwall said.

Ridderwall scored the game-winner against the Lakers, as the fourth shooter to go. After taking the puck the puck at center ice, Ridderwall deked Laker goalie Brian Mahoney-Wilson and lifted the puck into the net.

“I used a little move I did back in Juniors, where we had a lot of shootouts,” Ridderwall said. “I knew it had worked before, but I just hoped it did this time, and fortunately it did.”

Notre Dame senior goalie Jordan Pearce was also in favor of the rule change.

“I like shootouts,” he said. “I think they’re really fun and they’re a great way to get crowds into the game. Friday night, the students were into it, they were making a bunch of noise.”

Pearce said that he and Irish captain Erik Condra played together on the Lincoln Stars U.S. Hockey League Junior team, and went 7-1 in shootouts during their time with the Stars.

“Erik and I were both in the locker room at the beginning of the season and [coach Jeff Jackson] asked us our opinion, and thinking back to Lincoln being 7-1, we said ‘Sure,'” Pearce said.

Pearce said that his goal in shootouts is to put as much pressure on the shooter as possible.

“My mindset is to be really extra focused on the puck and to try to make them make the first move,” he said. “If you can be patient and stay up as long as you can, it forces them to make a move and beat you. You don’t really want to beat yourself.”

The Irish players are well-prepared for the new shootouts, as they have had shootout competitions after practice for several years. Up until now, however, those contests had just been for bragging rights.

“Every Thursday before game weekends we’d do a little shootout competition after practice,” Ridderwall said. “It allows guys to work on their moves a little bit, and it’s just good times. That’s helped us a lot, I think.”

Jackson said he’s started tracking the competition to determine his order for shootouts during games. He said he divides the team into two groups and allows the players to vote on the order of shooters during practice.

“They probably know best who’s going to give their team the best chance to win,” Jackson said. “And we’ve been tracking who’s scoring and who’s not.”

Despite the players’ enthusiasm for the shootouts, Jackson said he dislikes the system. The CCHA coaches voted against the rule change 7-5 in the offseason, but the measure was passed by the athletic directors.

“I’m not a fan of it,” Jackson said. “It’s fun to watch, but for a 28-game schedule, to me, it’s too risky in how much it can affect our standings.”

Jackson said the possibility of a team with more regulation wins losing out on a conference championship or a high conference tournament seed because of shootout wins is too much of a drawback.

“My biggest concern is that we’d be determining who our league champion is,” Jackson said. “Or determining who finishes in fourth place, for home ice in the second round [of the CCHA tournament], by a shootout.”

Currently, if the game ends in overtime, the winning team receives two points while the losing team receives none. If the game advances to a shootout, the winning team receives two, but the losing team receives one. Jackson said he favors the NHL style, where each team earns one point for advancing to overtime. In addition, the NHL plays four-on-four in overtime, which Jackson also likes.

“If at the end of regulation, we made it one point for each team, in my opinion, there’d be more wide-open overtime hockey,” he said. “And if we made it four-on-four, it’d make even more sense. You’re trying to exhaust every opportunity to end the game by playing the game. We don’t get a point at the end of regulation, and I think that stymies overtime.”

Jackson said the CCHA coaches are likely to revisit the system after the season, but for now at least, the shootouts are here to stay.