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Gophers Notebook: Under Big Ten OT system, ties can feel like wins, or losses

Gophers coach Bob Motzko. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press file photo

MINNEAPOLIS -- Both of the Minnesota Gophers' home games with Ohio State last weekend ended with the Buckeyes scoring the game-winning goal in a 3-on-3 overtime, and they headed back to Columbus with four of a possible six Big Ten points in their carry-on luggage.

But the Gophers officially didn’t lose either game.

Such is the current state of college hockey, where in some conferences, games end in a tie after five minutes of five-on-five overtime, and in others they keep playing in various ways until an outcome is reached.

For all 60 teams playing Division I college hockey, when a game is tied after 65 minutes, it goes in the books as a tie for purposes of NCAA tournament qualification. Eastern conferences like Atlantic Hockey and Eastern College Athletic Conference Hockey end it there. They shake hands and go home. In the west, conferences like the Big Ten and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference award each team one point for a tie after 65 minutes, and play for an extra point in the standings. A Big Ten win in the first 65 minutes is worth three standings points. A win that comes in the five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime, or in a shootout, is worth two points.

Over the summer, there was an attempt by the NCAA Hockey Rules Committee to create one system for all of college hockey. It failed, after reps from the eastern conferences would not accept the idea of 3-on-3 and/or shootouts, and the western conference reps would not drop the tie-breaking measures that have proven to be popular with fans and players.

While traditionalists like Cornell coach Mike Schafer argued for continuing the way things have been done for decades, and calling it a “good tie” after 65 minutes, fiery Air Force coach Frank Serratore noted that most advanced levels of hockey now have a mechanism for settling ties, including shootouts in Olympic hockey and in the NHL, although the top pros do not use the shootout in the playoffs.

Bob Motzko’s first night as Gophers head coach was a 1-1 tie at Minnesota Duluth that ended after 65 minutes because it was a non-conference game. He and his team were perfectly willing to keep playing that night.

“In Duluth, the game ends in a tie. None of the Duluth players moved. None of our players moved. Nobody in the crowd moved. Everybody was waiting for overtime,” Motzko said. “And yet, the rule is ‘no, you’ve got to go home.’...It’s awful when you lose, but I’m all for having a tie go in the books and playing for one point.”

Ranta’s big Monday has him looking ahead

College hockey teams don’t often play games on Monday, but Gophers freshman Sampo Ranta started the work week with a goal anyway.

On Dec. 3 it was announced that Ranta was credited with his team’s first goal in Saturday’s contest with Ohio State. Defenseman Sam Rossini shot the puck and was originally awarded the goal, but review of the play showed that it hit Ranta before landing in the net, officially breaking the Finnish rookie’s 10-game streak without a goal.

He got even better news Monday via a call from the coach of Finland’s team for the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championships, informing Ranta that he’s been invited to the camp from which Team Finland will be selected.

“They all want this call, from USA Hockey, from Team Finland. They want to get that call,” said Motzko, who coached Team USA at the two previous World Junior Championships. “So I think that’s a huge relief for him, we’ve just got to remind him we’ve got two big games to go.”

Ranta, who met with the Finnish coach after last Friday’s game with Ohio State, said he’s focused on the near future, but excited about what could come in a few weeks.

“It’s a great opportunity and I would say a dream come true for me,” Ranta said. “Those are guys I’ve always been looking up to, and the opportunity to represent my country is pretty cool. It’s going to be fun, for sure, but we have Michigan this week, so let’s worry about the World Juniors later.”