Sunday, March 26, 2017

There should be a more reasonable approach to reviewing offsides

The NCAA needs to rethink which goals it disallows as the result of an offsides entry into the zone.

There was a time in college hockey when a goal was disallowed simply because a player from the attacking team had a skate blade in the crease. It didn't matter if it was on purpose or inadvertent. It didn't matter if the skate in the crease had anything to do with how the goal was scored or whether it affected the goalie's ability to make the save. The goal was automatically disallowed because the rules said that no player from the attacking team could be in the blue paint ahead of the puck. Even if the officials didn't see the infraction but the replay cameras confirmed it, the team scoring the goal was, in effect, penalized for the officials' blown call.

Fortunately, the NCAA came to its senses and changed the rule, realizing that goals were being waved off for an infraction that had no bearing on how the goal was scored. The "no harm, no foul" principle was applied. It's a much more reasonable approach.

This brings me to UND's disallowed goal against Boston University, a goal that would have given the Fighting Hawks an overtime win in Fargo. Even if you accept that the NCAA had conclusive evidence showing Ludwig Hoff was offsides entering the zone, the image shows that it was by the narrowest of margins. It's easy to see how the linesman missed the call. However, in light of what happened during the UND-BU playoff game, I believe the NCAA needs to revisit the rule on reviewing goals for offsides infractions.

If a team enters the zone on a rush, scores off the rush and was aided by an offsides call the officials missed, then the goal should be disallowed. However, my recollection is that this isn't what happened with Dixon Bowen's disallowed goal against BU. When UND entered the zone, there was no indication from neither the officials nor the players that they believed the entry was offsides. Play went on as usual. UND didn't score off the rush. When the goal was eventually scored, it wasn't as a result of the missed offsides call.

If the NCAA allows a goal to be scored on a crease violation because the violation had no effect on the goalie's ability to make a save, why shouldn't a more reasonable approach be applied to offsides? If nobody knew for certain that the zone entry was offsides, play continued as usual and a goal was eventually scored by the attacking team -- on a play that had nothing to do with the zone entry -- why shouldn't the goal stand? How far back in time should officials go to apply the results of a call they didn't make in real-time?

We know the officials aren't perfect and can't see everything. Sometimes they don't even see what they think they see, as evidenced during Minnesota-Duluth's game against Ohio State when two apparent goals were signaled by referees, only to be reviewed and then disallowed.

Getting the call right after a goal is scored is important to determining the game's correct outcome. The NCAA has already established a precedent that goals can be allowed when an uncalled infraction had no bearing on the scoring opportunity. Just as the NCAA wisely applied common-sense limits to the man-in-the-crease rule, it should do the same when it comes to rewinding the tape to review goals scored following a missed offsides call.

If being offsides created no unfair advantage that led to a goal, then why disallow the goal?