Every weekday from June 12-27, we will be looking back at the "Top Shelf Moments" from the 2016-17 WCHA Men's League season. Up first on our countdown is…
Moment #12: Everybody Loves a Winner
It's true that everybody loves a winner. Yet, for its entire history, fans at a WCHA regular season game were not guaranteed that outcome.
That all changed in the 2016-17 season, as the WCHA introduced a new format to settle every regular season contest. For the first time ever, games that remained tied after regulation and the NCAA-mandated, five-minute 5-on-5 overtime advanced to the frantic intrigue of 3-on-3 overtime and, if necessary, a sudden-death shootout. While all games deadlocked after 65 minutes remained a tie for NCAA purposes, the "winning" team in either 3-on-3 OT or shootout received two of the possible three WCHA points for that game.
What resulted was a thrilling new wrinkle for WCHA student-athletes and their fans, one that created some memorable moments throughout the campaign. The historic first 3-on-3 overtime goal came courtesy of Michigan Tech's Reid Sturos, who sent 3,013 Huskies fans home happy when he delivered against Alabama Huntsville on Oct. 15. The initial WCHA shootout took place Oct. 22 in Big Rapids, when Ferris State's Craig Pefley delighted the "Dawg Pound" by scoring the winner against visiting Northern Michigan.
Beginning with Sturos' heroics, fans at all 10 WCHA venues saw at least one game that went to 3-on-3 overtime, while seven rinks hosted a shootout.
All told, 29 league games were tied after regulation. Of those, nine were won in 5-on-5 overtime, 10 featured a winning goal in 3-on-3 overtime and 10 advanced all the way to a shootout. Nine teams earned an extra WCHA point via either a 3-on-3 or shootout win, while six (Alaska Anchorage, Alaska, league regular season champion Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Lake Superior State and Michigan Tech) enjoyed at least one win in both formats.
The Lakers led way with four such "wins," scoring a league-best three times in 3-on-3 OT and earning one shootout victory. The Huskies' two shootout triumphs paced the WCHA. Ten different players found the back of the net during 3-on-3 OT, including six from the visiting team. In fact, on the hectic night of Jan. 13, three games went to the second overtime, with all three road teams emerging with the extra league point.
Indeed, everyone loves a winner. In 2016-17, the new WCHA overtime format proved to be just that.