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Shootouts worth too much

November 7, 2011
The Mining Journal

Fans love shootouts as the 8,054 in green and gold showed at the Berry Events Center on Friday and Saturday night, especially when the Northern Michigan University hockey team comes out on the winning end.

Players appear indifferent with the Wildcats being ho-hum following a shootout loss to Michigan on Nov. 22 and ecstatic following the wins this weekend over Notre Dame.

Head hockey coaches in the CCHA have made their opinions clear about the shootout.

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They don't like it, whether they are in the winning or losing locker room following the theatrics.

"I wouldn't consider it a loss," Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said following Friday's game. "It's not by NCAA standards. The shootout is a joke."

"I don't like them," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said on Saturday when I asked, "So Walt, wow much do you love shootouts?"

"It's easy to say that tonight when you've had some success," Kyle continued after a laugh, "but at the end of the day in the NCAA it's a tie and we picked up two extra points in league play that we otherwise wouldn't have had.

"We had some good shooters in Tyler (Gron) tonight, Reed Seckel last night and Reid Ellingson was exceptional."

Two weeks ago I had planned to write a column about how I hoped to see shootouts die in college hockey along with the CCHA at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, but after seeing the energy at the Berry Events Center this weekend as a result of the Wildcats' shootout victories, that stance has changed.

Shootouts need to stay for the sake of the fans, however, their value needs to change.

Something isn't right when a win and a tie - which Northern picked up against Michigan two weeks ago - holds the same value as two ties - which NMU picked up this weekend.

Forget whether or not you believe the Wildcats played that much better than Notre Dame to deserve two more points in the league standings.

Something isn't right when the value of ties equals that of a win.

To use a common saying for ties - kissing your sister - which would you rather have? Two smooches from your sister or a peck on the cheek from sis and a kiss from Anne Hathaway?

A weekend that features locking lips with Anne Hathaway will always beat out a weekend of not locking lips with Anne Hathaway and there is no debating this. None.

Last season Western Michigan (10 wins, 9 losses, 9 ties and 5 shootout wins) made out with its sister all season en route to finishing fourth in the CCHA, despite finishing with less wins than fifth-place Ferris State (12-12-4-3), sixth-place Northern (12-13-3-0) and 10th-place Michigan State (11-15-2-0).

The Broncos actually finished tied for seventh in wins in the league, and had there been no shootouts, the Broncos would have tied NMU for fifth and missed out on a first round bye by a point to Ferris.

Lake Superior State, who tied eight games and won five shootouts, would have fallen from eighth to 10th in the standings.

So what should a shootout win be worth? Is it worth anything more than a group hug at the end of a game and the explosion or deflation of a crowd?

Like in a regular season game, shootouts should only factor in the league standings when there is no better option, and that would be No. 3 on the list of CCHA tiebreakers following conference wins and best regular-season winning percentage against other team(s) tied for position.

I can accept breaking a tie with shootout wins over the current No. 3, total goals scored for and against. No. 4, winning percentage against common opponents; and No. 5, a coin toss.

Reducing shootouts to a tiebreaker as opposed to a category in the standings may decrease their value, but it won't diminish the fans excitement of seeing a skater go one-on-one with a goaltender.

Give the fans their shootout, but bring us back to the days of wins, losses and ties.

Otherwise, good riddance to the shootout come 2013.

I'll miss the energy from the crowd, but I won't miss the math that results from calculating league standings based on wins, losses, ties and shootout wins or that dance I do with coaches and players in postgame interviews as we all try to decided whether a team won, lost or tied.

It's as awkward as kissing your sister.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.



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