With the NCAA’s 2016 Frozen Four Tournament upon us, many NHL fans will be tuning in to check out some great hockey, as well as to get a preview of some of their favorite team’s prospects.  If you’re a fan who hasn’t watched much college hockey, though, some of the whistles might have you scratching your head.

Here’s a summary of some of the rule differences between NCAA Hockey and the NHL:  

Action NHL Rule NCAA Rule
Goal is scored on a delayed penalty Goal counts, penalty is waved off Goal counts, penalty is still served
Hand pass in defensive zone Legal Play is stopped for faceoff. Offending team not permitted to change players.
Puck over glass in defensive zone 2:00 penalty for Delay of Game Penalty only if deemed intentional. Faceoff in defensive zone. Offending team not permitted to change players
Net dislodged by defending team Play is stopped for defensive zone faceoff Play is stopped for defensive zone faceoff. Offending team not permitted to change players.
Fighting 5:00 major penalty 5:00 major penalty and game misconduct
Goaltender playing the puck Only permitted below goal line when within trapezoid No restrictions
Hitting from Behind Minor or Major Minor or Major if in open ice Major + Misconduct if into boards or goal cage
Coaches’ Challenge Yes, for offside plays and goaltender interference.  Yes. In situations where a potentially missed offside or too many men call directly leads to a goal, coaches may use their timeout to challenge the play.

Regular season: 3-on-3
Playoffs: 5-on-5

Face shields Visors required for all players; grandfathered players may opt out  Full face protection required


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