The Big Four only get one

By Brian Schultz
This title may not make sense at first glance, but the “bubble teams” love
it. The NCAA Ice Hockey committee has voted to
award an automatic bid to the MAAC conference. The committee also stripped
one automatic bid from each of the “big four”
conferences…WCHA, Hockey East, CCHA, ECAC. The committee has been trying
to push a plan through that would have
expanded the number of teams in the national tournament to 16 team (12
currently) but that proposal has failed each of the last
two years. While the regular season champion and the post season champion
were awarded bids in the past, only one team in
each conference will receive the automatic bid now. Each conference can
decide if they want that bid to go to the regular
season champ or the tournament champ.

While it may not seem like this will make that big of an effect, the
tournament selection committee may shy away from giving a
bid to a team that wins the regular season title, then, say, losses in the
first round of their tournament. Or, they may not give a
bid to a team that finishes in the middle of the pack in the regular season,
then wins a couple of upsets and wins the
tournament. The decision of the individual conference as to which team will
get the automatic bid will be a tough one…and one
that has huge implications.

In 1999 Denver beat North Dakota in the WCHA “Final Five” and received an
automatic bid. Even though they won their last
nine games before losing in the NCAA Regional, there weren’t many people who
thought the Pioneers would make the
NCAA’s. By winning the tournament (and knowing that North Dakota would get
a bid by winning 32 games that year) Denver
was in…and a bubble team was out. That won’t happen anymore.