MIAA Tournament Management Committee: Higher hockey seeds can select quarterfinal sites

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FRANKLIN – Scott Paine knows it would add a lot more onto his plate as the MIAA statewide hockey tournament director.

He also wants to ensure that as many people as possible enjoy the postseason experience.

At Tuesday’s MIAA Tournament Management Committee meeting, the group voted unanimously that tournament games beginning with the quarterfinals (Round of 8) would be played at neutral facilities. For this round only, the higher seed would be allowed to select what was previously approved by the TMC with the understanding Paine would have final say.

“I remember last year’s Reading-Braintree game in the Round of Eight where Braintree got the home game (at Zapustas Rink in Randolph) and we wound up turning away nearly 2,000 people,” Paine said. “We have great venues like Gallo, Loring, Stoneham, Chelmsford, Olympia, Woburn and Tsongas with more seating and they have proven that they want to host games.”

Hockey is unique from most other MIAA sports in that few schools have their own ice hockey facilities. Even with a mandated minimum of 1,000 seats required to host a quarterfinal contest, some schools have become creative in their attempts to reach a magical number. Members pointed out that some schools used portable bleachers and folding chairs in hopes of reaching the magical number.

“To me, this is not providing the student-athletes with a quality experience,” said TMC chairman Shaun Hart of Burlington. “We’re trying to provide everyone with a great tournament experience.”

Another topic which has generated statewide interest are the power ratings, namely the way it is presently set up. Many schools have clamored for a wins proponent to add into the formula. One of those who have brought up a desire to see something along those lines is Wellesley athletic director John Brown.

“I remember one year where Brookline, Natick and Wellesley were the top three girls teams in the Bay State Conference,” Brown said. “Brookline beat both Natick and Wellesley twice and Natick and Wellesley split. You would think Brookline would have been the higher seed, but they actually wound up third because they played a defensive style and won a lot of games by 1-0 score, whereas us and Natick would win games by two and three goals.”

Hart understands the angst, but is hesitant to tamper with a system which is producing at more than 80 percent accurate rate at the current time. That being said, Hart and MIAA assistant director Jim Clark (who created the power rankings) have discussed the possibility of tinkering with the formula in order to please with constituents. Clark said a sample would be produced at the next TMC meeting in November.

In other news, the TMC voted unanimously to approve the formats for each of the winter sports. At the suggestion of MIAA volleyball liaison Sherry Bryant, the committee agreed to move up the release of the volleyball brackets from Tuesday, Oct. 31 to Monday, Oct. 30. The committee also agreed to act upon a suggestion by track liaison Keith Brouillard to change the order of waves at the divisional cross-country meets from C, A, B to A, B, C.

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