A significant change to overtime procedure highlighted the AHL’s rule change announcement on Thursday.

Beginning this season, overtime will last seven minutes. Until the first stoppage in play that occurs after the three-minute mark, teams will play at four-on-four. Following that stoppage, they will drop to three-on-three and move to a three-round shootout if the score is still tied at the end of the seven-minute period. In recent seasons, overtimes lasted five minutes at four-on-four before moving to a five-man shootout.

As part of the new overtime setup, there will be a “dry scrape” of the entire ice surface immediately preceding overtime. Teams will also change ends at the start of the overtime period.

The AHL’s Board of Governors approved the changes, likely designed to increase overtime goals and thus decrease the impact shootouts have on eventual playoff chances, at their annual meetings this week. It’s likely that the NHL will be closely monitoring the new format with the possibility of adopting it in the future – a common process most recently seen with hybrid icing.

The league also announced two other rules changes on Thursday. The first states that any player who receives two major penalties for fighting or three major penalties for any infraction in the same game will receive an automatic game misconduct. The second states that a player on the ice whose helmet comes off during play will earn a minor penalty unless he immediately exits the playing surface or puts the helmet back on with the chin strap properly fastened.