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CIAC Boys Ice Hockey Committee chairman Tom Neagle is anticipating this season's state tournaments more than ever with the old format for qualification taken to another level.
Neagle and the committee's intent was to create more postseason opportunities for teams by guaranteeing a minimum 16-team bracket for all three divisions.
Previously, teams needed a .400 winning percentage in order to qualify for the CIAC state tournaments. The same format is still in place, but if less than 16 teams in a division qualify based on winning percentage, the bracket will be filled by adding the remaining teams with the most power points. Power points are used for seeding purposes after the postseason field is set in each division -- beating a D-I team is worth six power points, D-II is four and D-III is two; tying a D-I team is worth three points, D-II is two and D-III is one.
"The format we are using this year is on a trial basis and will be evaluated by the Ice Hockey Committee at the conclusion of this season," Neagle said. "I should point out that this format, which allows us to fill the sixteen brackets in each tournament division with teams that have a winning percentage under the traditional 40 percent mark, is groundbreaking and experimental.
"The CIAC Board of Control has granted an exception to this time- honored standard to only the Ice Hockey Committee and only on an experimental basis. I believe the Board's decision reflects its confidence in the Ice Hockey Committee to do what is best for the sport and the student-athletes that play it."
Division II currently has 13 of its 22 teams qualified for the postseason under the old standard.
"The Ice Hockey Committee continues to be committed to offering as many opportunities for postseason play as possible while constructing a tournament that offers all participating teams a fair placement based on their records," Neagle said. "Will this prove to be a successful format? Only time will tell."
East Haven coach Lou Pane is the most vocal opponent of the new format. Pane believes the CIAC has eliminated the importance of winning during the regular season and is rewarding underachievement.
"This allows student-athletes to underachieve in the area of athletics and be rewarded, and it is demeaning to the game of hockey," Pane said. "It seems like many of their recent decisions are based on financial gain, because the more teams that are in the tournament, the more money the CIAC stands to make.
"The CIAC must remember students must achieve in the classroom to graduate or be promoted, and should hold the same elevated standards for our ice hockey student-athletes as well. Help save the integrity of the game."
Neagle says the Ice Hockey Committee does everything in the best interest of the student-athletes, that this new format offers more opportunities for postseason play and all teams are fairly seeded in the tournament based on power points.
He also stressed this is being done on an experimental basis and will be evaluated at theof the season.
Neagle also confirmed there are plans to play some state quarterfinal games at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.
All semifinals and finals will continue to be played at Yale's Ingalls Rink.