The Hockey East Association announced on Tuesday that the postseason conference tournament—cancelled last year due to COVID-19—will proceed this year as a single-elimination tournament. Because all teams in Hockey East have played a different number of games, and all eligible teams will qualify for the 2021 tournament, Hockey East unveiled what it calls the “Hockey East Power Index” (HEPI) to determine seeding for the tournament.
“The 2020-21 season has presented new challenges each day, and Hockey East has done everything in our power to ensure a safe and fulfilling experience for our student-athletes in this difficult year,” Hockey East Commissioner Steve Metcalf said in the Hockey East’s statement. “Inviting all teams into the Hockey East Tournament and using the Hockey East Power Index to seed each program respects the importance and integrity of each regular-season game. Ultimately, our goal is to provide the best experience possible for our student-athletes.”
The HEPI, created using a “customized objective mathematical formula,” seeks to rank teams without using a points-based seeding formula. Because teams across the league have played vastly different numbers of games, the HEPI attempts to remove the effects of imbalanced schedules in terms of both number of games played and strength of opponents.
The new seeding system became important after Hockey East changed its scoring rules this season. In league play, a category under which all games fall this year, regulation wins are worth three points, 3-on-3 overtime or shootout wins are two points, and 3-on-3 overtime or shootout losses are one point.
As a result, the HEPI takes into account not only a team’s overall points, but its strength of schedule, its performance in regulation, overtime, and shootouts, and performance at home compared to away. Points on the standings table, formerly used for seeding purposes, are not involved in the HEPI ranking.
“In a season where nothing has been easy, Hockey East’s dedication to providing our student-athletes every opportunity to compete, and the ingenuity in doing so, has been a bright spot,” BC head coach Jerry York said in the statement. “The unprecedented year has required new and innovative ideas to create a level playing field. The Hockey East Power Index is another example of Hockey East leadership pushing our league to the forefront of college sports.”
Hockey East will also use the HEPI to determine the conference’s regular season champion. On both the men’s and women’s sides, the team to finish the regular season with the highest HEPI will be crowned the regular season champion and will earn the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
Three days after the conclusion of the regular season, the women’s tournament will begin with two opening round games on Feb. 24. The quarterfinal round will take place on Feb. 28, semifinals on March 3, and the championship game is on March 6. Each game will be played on the home ice of the higher-seeded team. The men’s tournament will run in a similar format from March 10 through March 20.
The winners of both the men’s and women’s Hockey East Tournaments will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, for which the NCAA has not yet announced dates. The Frozen Four will take place in early April.
Hockey East will update its HEPI rankings on its website daily, and it expects rankings to change regardless of whether a team competes that day. As of Wednesday, BC sits atop the men’s rankings and in second in the women’s.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor