Thursday, December 2, 2010

About that goal...

Almost nobody (excluding Fighting Sioux fans) seemed too upset about the goal Notre Dame scored with just over three minutes left in Saturday's game against North Dakota that resulted in the a 2-2 tie. It's usually not difficult to tell when Sioux coach Dave Hakstol is unhappy with a call that went against his team. But in his post-game comments, he seemed more than willing to accept the ruling that enabled the Fighting Irish to escape Ralph Engelstad Arena with a tie.

And Sioux goalie Aaron Dell? He's not exactly a wordy or an emotional kind of guy. He didn't say that he felt as though the Notre Dame player in the crease had interfered with him, although it certainly looked as if that was the case at the time the Fighting Irish scored.

So I didn't think there was any reason to make an issue of the game-tying goal until I watched this replay and reviewed the NCAA ice hockey rule book. I had assumed the goal was allowed because the puck was in the crease at the time Notre Dame's Bryan Rust (No. 21) appeared to slide into the crease totally on his own. But as this frame from the video shows, Rust was well into the crease and the puck was well out of it before Notre Dame's Sam Calabrese swept the puck on goal.

It's quite obvious in the video that Rust physically interfered with Dell's ability to make a save. So given that Rust went into the crease after the puck came out and Rust clearly interfered with Dell, how could the referee award the goal to Notre Dame? I submitted that question to the WCHA. Head official Greg Shepherd was kind enough to provide this response:
The only view that the officials have for replay is the overhead view, and talking to the on-ice officials live they thought the North Dakota player caused the Notre Dame player to go into the goalie by the use of his stick, and from the overhead view there was nothing to overturn that. If we had other angles it could have been different.
Unfortunately, Shepherd raises more questions than he answers. The North Dakota player in question would have been Matt Frattin (No. 21) who was closest to Rust. In the video, Frattin ties up Rust's stick with his stick and lifts it to keep Rust from putting in the rebound off Dell's save. Frattin appears to do nothing that would have caused Rust to fall. In sliding into the crease, Rust makes contact with Dell and comes between the goalie and the puck.

Had Calabrese swept the puck straight into the net, the referees might have been able to make the case that Dell was in no position to make a save. Thus, Rust's contact would have made no difference. But the puck appears to hit the post and then travel at an angle away from the goal line. It deflects in off either Dell or Rust. Dell had virtually no chance of making a save with Rust in contact with him and lying between him and the puck.

The most important question is this: If the officials saw Frattin use his stick in a manner that caused Rust to fall, why didn't they call a penalty? Certainly Frattin would have been guilty of interference on a Notre Dame scoring opportunity. A penalty would have been warranted. But because no penalty was called, it severely weakens the case that Rust went into the crease because of Frattin's stick work.

Besides that, the video from various angles in no way supports the on-ice officials' claim that Frattin's stick caused Rust to lose his balance, slide into the crease and make contact with the goalie. While I can sympathize with the fact that the referees don't have access to anything but the overhead view in making their call, the fact remains that their decision was based not only on something that didn't happen, but also on something that the one video replay they viewed didn't support.

Shepherd leaves open the possibility that had the referees been able to see the replays of the goal from different angles, they might have made a different decision. That's nice, but what does the WCHA do about an officiating crew which allowed a goal that shouldn't have counted, a goal that might have important implications at playoff time in March? What do you do with an officiating crew that claims to have seen a penalty on a scoring opportunity, but didn't call it and then uses the non-call as its rationale for allowing the goal?

It makes no sense.


Nate said...

I cannot agree more. The play was called no-goal to start with, so even if the officials "thought" a UND player caused Rust to interfere with Dell, the overhead view (the only one they have to look at) does not necessarily support that.

Your point of emphasis is spot on. There should have been a penalty called in the first place IF Frattin interfered with Rust.

The officials cannot use replay to call a penalty so by not calling one on the ice there was no basis to wave off a goal because of something they "thought" they should have called.

Shepherd says that if they had other angles, it could have been different. If he knows that the overhead angle is not sufficient in every circumstance, why not propose to use the additional television angles when they are available?

The Sicatoka said...

What exactly does it mean when Greg Shepherd says:

" ... and talking to the on-ice officials live they thought ... "

Talking to them "live"? Did the on-ice officials call Greg Shepherd? He wasn't in REA that evening.

And the officials "thought"? That sounds very subjective. What about they saw in the replay (something very objective).

Patrick C. Miller said...

I've been informed that Shepherd's comment should be taken to mean: during the live action when the original call was made.

Anonymous said...

Pat -- sure do miss your comments and insight on Even here they are way too infrequent.

Patrick C. Miller said...

The more I watch the replay of Notre Dame's game-tying goal Saturday, the more I'm convinced that the Irish player who ended up in the crease did so because he was trying to do what Matt Frattin was accused of doing Friday. He was attempting to direct the puck into the net with his skate.

This is especially clear in the reverse angle. You see Dell make the save. You see rebound go up the slot. You see Notre Dame's Brian Rust (21) in perfect position to put the rebound into the net, but he can't. Why? Because wise old senior Matt Frattin has lifted his stick off the ice. Rust, a freshman, is powerless to put the puck in the net with his stick. And he's looking down at the puck coming right toward his feet.

So what does he do? He turns his skate sideways in a vain effort to deflect the puck on goal. But because he's moving forward, when he turns his skate sideways on the ice, he loses his balance, whiffs on connecting with the puck and slides into Dell.

The nearly comical part is that with a wide open net, Calabrese puts the puck off the post. It bounces away from the goal line and toward Rust and Dell. The puck goes into the net as a direct result of the pileup created by Rust.

There's no way that Notre Dame should have been rewarded with a goal that could have been scored only by Rust being in the crease illegally to take out Dell. Given that there was no call on Frattin, the WCHA's rationale is worse than weak. It's pathetic.