Special teams has become a major focus for teams across college hockey, with more game time spent on special teams than every before, it seems. Across the country, the WCHA has the most power plays per game this season, with 9.2. The disparity between top and bottom is somewhat large, with the Big Ten averaging the least number of power plays (7.1) and then there’s a group in the middle — the ECAC, Hockey East, Atlantic Hockey and the NCHC — that all range between 8.6-8.4.
College hockey averages far more time on special teams than the NHL. This season, NHL games are averaging 6.4 power plays per game, and last season the league averaged just 5.8 power plays per game. College Hockey doesn’t have a single league that averages less than seven power plays per game, and the NHL hasn’t averaged more than seven per game since 2008.
“In some games, they let you play, and in other games, they don’t,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “I don’t think there is an across-the-board standard and that’s an issue. The NCAA gives us the rules, and then each league interprets them differently. It’s the same rulebook, but you go league-to-league and you see different averages. Are some leagues playing cleaner than others? I don’t think so. I think it comes down to each league interpreting the rulebook differently.”
Dennehy said the biggest disparity in how rules are called is in regards to goalie interference, and contact with the goaltender in front of the net.
“I think scoring is up slightly,” he said. “My guess is injuries to goalies might also be up, because what you’re basically allowed to do now is run the goalie. It still blows my mind. If you were to take someone who doesn’t understand hockey, and you asked them to explain when you could hit the goalie and when you can’t, they would tell you that if the goalie is out of the blue, you can’t hit them, but if they’re in the blue you can hit them as much as you want. If you touch a goalie when he leaves the crease to go behind the net, you’re going to the box every single time. How often is there contact with the goalie with the crease? It makes zero sense. None. You can’t interfere on dumps, but what about when they’re standing in front of your own net?”