Hockey 101: Competition Format


The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has their stage set for the men’s and women’s hockey tournaments for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games. 

Let the games begin!

The men’s tournament features 12 teams broken down into three groups with four teams per group, while the women’s tournament includes eight teams playing in two groups of four. 

Men’s tournament 

Group AGroup BGroup C




 Czech Republic 



 South Korea




 United States 


Women’s tournament

Group AGroup B

 United States 







 South Korea 

Play opens in each tournament with preliminary round robin games – 18 games for the men and 12 for the women. The men’s groups are seeded based on IIHF World Rankings, with the top-eight nations of the 2015 rankings automatically qualifying. As the host nation, South Korea was awarded a spot in the tournament, and three more teams qualified in separate events to make it to PyeongChang. 

The women’s groups are divided with the top four ranked teams playing in Group A and the rest of the field playing in Group B.

At the end of every game, teams are awarded points using the IIHF’s Three Point System. These points are then used to help determine the seeding position for teams entering the knockout rounds. Points are awarded as follows:

3 points

Awarded to winning team at the end of regulation
1 point

Awarded to teams tied at the end of regulation
1 additional point

Awarded to team winning in overtime or shootout
0 points

No point given to losing team at the end of regulation.

Advancing to the knockout stage

The march toward the gold medal hits its stride at the conclusion of the preliminary round games. The men’s teams are ranked from 1-12 using five criteria to determine the order. In order of importance, higher position in the group, higher number of points, better goal difference, higher number of goals scored for and better 2013 IIHF World Ranking, with the top four ranked teams receiving automatic byes to the quarterfinals.

Four games, known as the Qualification Playoff games, will be played between the eight remaining teams to determine who moves on to the quarterfinals. Winners of the four quarterfinal games advance to two semifinal games. The winners of the two semifinal games meet in the gold medal game. The winner takes Olympic hockey gold and the loser leaves with silver. The losing semifinal round teams play in the bronze medal game to determine the final podium position. 

Guaranteeing the best teams will play against one another, the women’s knockout stage begins with the top two finishers in Group A receiving byes to the semifinals. The third and fourth place finishers in Group A play the top two finishers of Group B in two “quarterfinal” games with the victors sliding into the two remaining semifinal spots. Winners of the semifinal games go on to play for gold and silver, while the losers face off for bronze. Classification games are also played to determine the final Olympic rankings for teams placing fifth through eighth.

Ice time

Games consist of three 20-minute periods with two 15-minute intermissions. A five-minute 3-on-3 sudden death overtime will be played if preliminary and qualification round games finish the third period in a tie. In the quarterfinals, semifinals and bronze medal game, sudden death time increases to a ten minute period, 4-on-4 overtime. In the gold medal game, a full 5-on-5, 20-minute overtime period will be played if the score is tied at the end of regulation.

If any Olympic ice hockey game is still even at the end of sudden death overtime, a three-round shootout will be used to determine the winner. And if that doesn’t end it, shootout “extras” will be taken, where any skater can take the shot. Or in the case of Team USA forward T.J. Oshie at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, facing Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, a single skater can put their team on their back for as many shots as it takes to get the win.

Oshie needed five.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Top Stories

More Top Stories

Tracking the Coronavirus

Coronavirus Cases Tracker

Latest Central Texas COVID-19 Cases

More Coronavirus Live Blogs

Trending Stories

Don't Miss