BOYS' HOCKEY: CIAC scraps 12-team Division I proposal, maintains current division setup
On Thursday, the Ice Hockey Committee submitted a revised proposal to the CIAC Board of Control who approved it. When it was all said and done, the only major change to the divisions was guaranteeing a minimum 16 teams for each postseason tournament.
Through this season, only teams with a winning percentage of 40 percent or better could qualify for the tournament, which is why only nine teams qualified for the current Division III tournament. Starting next season, for tournament qualification all teams with a winning percentage of 40 percent or better will qualify for the tournaments. But in a division where fewer than 16 teams meet the 40 percent qualifying standard, a full bracket of 16 teams will be achieved by qualifying teams with the next highest winning percentages.
When the proposal to go to a 12-team D-I format with a best-of-three series final was first proposed, there was mixed reaction among coaches. A meeting with the coaches and the Ice Hockey Committee on Feb. 3 to discuss the proposal and get input from coaches made an impact with the Ice Hockey Committee’s proposal.
“It is true that the original proposal we shared with our coaches on Super Bowl Sunday morning (Feb. 3) offered a 12-team Division I and larger Divisions II and III,” said Tom Neagle, chairman of the CIAC Ice Hockey Committee. “This proposal reflected a willingness on the CIAC's part to allow sports committees to have "unbalanced" divisions, something we had been directed not to do in the past.
“The original proposal served a very important role. It generated thought and discussion among the (Ice Hockey) Committee members, our coaches and our officials. Our Committee listened carefully to what our coaches said and they said keep the 16-team Division I bracket intact and keep three divisions. As an educator, I was pleased to see all of us in the "hockey fraternity" express our opinions in an articulate and respectful fashion.”
Neagle said the Ice Hockey Committee heard from first-year coaches and those who have been on the bench for decades.
“If anything, the discussion that took place that Sunday morning at the CIAC was one of the proudest moments during my tenure,” Neagle said. “The math is pretty simple. With 57 teams, we are unlikely to qualify 48 teams (three divisions of 16) for our tournament unless we dip below the 40 percent standard. The Board of Control's approval of our proposal (on a two-year trial basis) represents a significant shift in thinking that will be carefully observed by other sports committees.”
For Milford boys’ hockey coach Sal Follo, who also serves as the coaches’ CIAC liaison as a member of the Ice Hockey Committee, the important thing was to maintain a three-division format. There was also concern that a best-of-three series in D-I would make players want to transfer to D-I teams to get the exposure those extra games would provide.
“There will be no best 2-out-of- 3 championship series and we will keep the three divisions,” Follo said. “I believe that at the CIAC hockey committee meeting with the coaches the committee listened to the coaches who were loud and clear when they said they more or less wanted to keep everything the same with no changes. So the committee put a proposal together with the input of the coaches and passed it on to the board of control for approval. The coaches voices were heard, which is a good thing and I am happy for that.”
It should also be noted that the division distribution for the next two seasons will be formulated by considering the regular season results and tournament success over the previous two seasons.