The first round of the CCHA playoffs culminated last night, with three of the four first round match-ups going to a deciding game 3. It's the second year of the CCHA using this playoff format, and so far, I think it has been great.
The tournament format may not necessarily give the little guys more of a chance to win, but it certainly gives them more of a chance to compete. This system allows 8 different teams to host home ice playoff series as opposed to just 6 under the old system. It was great to see playoff hockey in the Soo again, even though the Lakers couldn't crack the top six.
It also created some more compelling match-ups. All three series were exceptionally close. The only series that ended in two games was the UNO/Bowling Green match-up, where UNO needed late goals both nights to win the game. The only blowout games were wins by Ohio State, and Western Michigan, who both lost their series. I doubt we would have seen exciting hockey like this in a 1 vs. 12 or 2 vs. 11 match-up under the old system.
The trade-off for this tournament format was pretty small, as well. As someone who attended the Thursday play-in games at the CCHA Super Six, I can say that it was an embarassment for the league. The afternoon game only drew a couple hundred people. It's much better to have players playing in front of their own fans, and makes going to the Joe all the more special, because it's more difficult to do. It also allows fans to make plans to travel to Detroit, because they know that their team will play two games. People don't have to risk a lot of time and money to potentially go watch their team lose one game on Thursday and be done.
Of course the other trade-off is the occasional Tuesday game, which everybody hates, but I think as long as the league tries their best to schedule the weekday games at times that don't hurt teams too badly, it shouldn't be a huge problem.
The real shame is that now that the CCHA has found a great postseason system, they'll likely have to shake it up in a year or two when the CHA dissolves and they are likely forced to absorb a new team or two. In the meantime, I'll enjoy the great hockey.