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In boys hockey federation, longer periods, penalties put emphasis on special teams

The games have gotten longer and the power plays more impactful in the Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association lengthened periods from 15 to 17 minutes and minor penalties from 90 seconds to two minutes this season to conform with National Federation of State High School Association standards.

Major penalties also have been extended from four to five minutes, and misconduct penalties from 7:30 to 10, but the additional 30 seconds for common infractions will have the biggest effect on games, federation coaches say.

“The longer power play and penalty kill will make a huge impact,” said Dave Gerspach, the coach for defending Division II state champion Sweet Home.

“You don’t think 30 seconds is a long time,” St. Joe’s coach Rich Crozier said. “But it was definitely noticeable in our first game. You are going to have to pay more attention to special teams. It’s a much bigger part of the game now.”

While most players have experience with two-minute penalties playing under USA Hockey rules in travel leagues, the change will affect coaching strategy and favor Fed teams with the depth to develop effective secondary units for power plays and penalty kills.

“At a minute-30, those penalties were over in a hurry,” Williamsville East coach Mike Torrillo said. “A lot of times you could get by with one power-play unit, maybe two on the kill.”

Two-minute penalties require a line change for a team on the power play and usually two for the shorthanded team.

“You have to get more kids prepared for special teams, especially on the kill because the kill is when you exert more energy,” Torrillo said. “We definitely started preparation for that a little sooner than we have in the past.”

As for the major and misconduct penalties, Crozier said, “If we have guys taking majors, they should sit. So I don’t think that will make as much of a difference as the minor penalties.”

The extra two minutes in each period adds a few more shifts to the game, but the overall impact on player stamina and strategy will be offset by another rule change requiring the ice to be resurfaced before each period.

In the past, the Zamboni came out before the first and third periods. Teams now have about 10 extra minutes to rest and make strategic adjustments before the second period.

“On a consistent basis, I think it’s good for the team. It’s good for the boys,” Lancaster coach Kevin Miller said. “It gives more teaching moments where you can go over things.”

Miller noticed how the additional time affected opponent line changes during games in other areas of the state where the ice gets resurfaced before each period.

“There’s times they run two lines consistently and throw a third line out there once in a while, knowing they are going to get that extra rest,” Miller said.

The combination of rested players and smoother ice will have a significant affect on gameplay in the second period.

“If you have a fast team that likes to skate, the advantage is certainly there,” Miller said.

The difference in playing conditions is most dramatic late in the second period.

“It changes the game at the end of the second,” Crozier said. “The ice would be an issue at times. It’s tougher to move the puck. Sometimes you get a bad bounce. Resurfacing each period will make a big difference.”

An additional six minutes of regulation time, extended power plays and better skating conditions set up for an overall increase in scoring opportunities — and longer time windows for each game.

“I don’t mind any of it. It’s an adjustment for everybody,” Crozier said. “We’re going to preach playing disciplined and staying out of the box. We rely on our depth and our speed from all of our players. But the great equalizer will be if we are playing 5-on-4 all night killing penalties.”

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