The American Hockey League announced rule changes for the 2015-16 season Friday, which were approved by the Board of Governors.
Among them, each team will play 76 games except the five California teams in the new Pacific Division (Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, San Diego Gulls, San Jose Barracuda and Stockton Heat); they will play 68 games each. The Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage, the other teams in the Pacific Division, will play 76 games.
Because of the unbalanced schedule, teams will qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs based on points percentage, with the top four teams in each of the four divisions qualifying for the postseason. Teams receive two points for a win and one point for an overtime or shootout loss.
Other rule changes included changing the playoff format. Divisional opponents will play each other in the first two rounds before the conference finals and Calder Cup Finals. The first round will be a best-of-5 series, with the remaining three rounds best-of-7.
The overtime format will change; teams will change ends after the third period and there will be a dry scrape of the ice. Teams will skate 3-on-3 for five minutes, followed by a shootout if necessary. Last season, there was a seven-minute overtime period. The first three minutes were 4-on-4 and the final four minutes were 3-on-3 prior to a shootout.
Each team will have a coach's challenge to review a play when video review is applicable. A challenge can be used only if a team has its timeout. If the coach's challenge is unsuccessful, that team will be charged its timeout.
The AHL also changed its ruling on faceoffs. Excluding center-ice faceoffs (when the visiting player will place his stick on the ice first), the defending player will place his stick on the ice first.