WAUKESHA Wis.--As Adrian College embarks on its ninth season of NCAA Division III competition in 2015-16, the Bulldogs will defend their Northern Collegiate Hockey Association tournament championship while the men's conference undergoes a few significant changes, including the creation of two divisions and a new playoff format.
The changes were finalized at the athletic directors' meeting in Fond du Lac, Wis., on Sept. 23.
Adrian will be in the NCHA South Division with Aurora, Concordia (Wis.), Lake Forest and Marian.
Finlandia, Lawrence, Northland, Milwaukee School of Engineering, St. Norbert and St. Scholastica will make up the North Division.
MSOE was selected via a blind draw as the geographic transition team and will play the 2015-16 season in the North Division, then switch to play in the South for 2016-17.
The new playoff format will include a six-team field, with the top three teams in each division qualifying for the postseason. The quarterfinal round will pit the No. 3 seed at the No. 2 seed in each division. The champion from each division will earn a bye and advance directly to the semifinal round. Those champions and the two other quarterfinal winners will be re-seeded in the semifinals, based on total points in conference games and independent from their divisional affiliation.
The Nos. 1 and 2 seeds will host a semifinal series of two games, plus a mini-game (if necessary).
The new format and divisions allow for a continued emphasis on all regular season games, with an added element of divisional races and rivalries.
The NCHA also announced the 2016 Harris Cup playoffs schedule, which is subject to change:
Wednesday, Feb. 24 - Quarterfinals (single-game elimination)
Friday, Feb. 26, and Saturday, Feb. 27 - Semifinal series (2-plus-minigame format)
Saturday, Mar. 5 - Championship (single-game elimination)
Also new in 2015-16 is the addition of Aurora in the conference schedule and standings. The Spartans played a limited schedule against NCAA teams last year.
Opening weekend in the NCHA is Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30-31. All 11 NCHA clubs are in action, including three conference match-ups.
After a Black and Gold intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday, Oct. 24, Adrian drops the puck officially the following weekend for a two-game series at NCHA foe MSOE. The Bulldogs will have their home openers on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6-7, against another conference North opponent in Northland. Game times at Arrington Ice Arena will be 7:05 p.m. on Friday and 3:05 on Saturday.