CEDAR PARK — The American Hockey League’s new overtime rules appear to be working as shootouts are becoming a less common occurrence in the league.
In 106 games this AHL season, 21 went to overtime. Only two, 1.8 percent, have finished with the three-player shootout that follows overtime. By comparison, 18 of 137 NHL games, 13.7 percent, have been decided in shootouts this season.
The AHL often has been used as a testing ground for rules tweaks, and its unique overtime format may catch the eye of NHL rule-makers.
Instead of playing five minute of four-on-four hockey — the overtime format the NHL still uses — AHL clubs play seven minutes of overtime. The first stoppage of play after four minutes leads to a three-on-three format, which creates more scoring chances.
In both the NHL and the AHL, teams switch ends before overtime, creating longer line changes, and the ice re-surfacer runs a “dry scrape” after the completion of regulation play.
“I like the three-on-three. I like to see the game settled by the players instead of the shootout,” said Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal. “It’s a new process for all of us so we’re all trying to figure out the best way to play with it.”
Laxdal’s team got a taste of the new overtime rules during its past two games against Oklahoma City. Texas lost the first game after it switched to a three-on-three attack while it won the second overtime tilt just 42 seconds into the extra session.
Most of the Stars said they enjoyed the concept of three-on-three play, but reigning AHL MVP Travis Morin said it felt “goofy” and added he wasn’t a fan.
The most common complaint involved the dry scrape after regulation. On Wednesday, the procedure took 6 minutes, 22 seconds, effectively sapping much of the energy in the building.
“I don’t know what I think about that,” Curtis McKenzie said. “It just kind of sucks the life out of the game, and you get a little cold. If that was be able to speed up some, I’d really enjoy overtime.”