Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It Never Gets Old

OK, let's get this out of the way, since everyone's talking about it.

The WaP Screw made its third appearance in as many seasons this past weekend - frequently enough that it now apparently has a name. It's the second time it has popped up in a game against Union, which sucks primarily because losing against Union is annoying.

In fact, this isn't the first time we've lost to Union in the last several years on a questionable call. From what I can recall off the top of my head...

January 16, 2002: Doug Christiansen scores on a net that was clearly off its moorings to put Union ahead 5-4, which would prove to be the final score of the game. This goal would have been legitimate today, but probably shouldn't have counted back then. Referee: Tim Kotyra.

February 7, 2009: Kelly Zajac scores an overtime winner after a Union player shoves a defender into freshman netminder Allen York, putting him on the ice as the puck goes in top shelf. Referee: Bryan Hicks.

November 12, 2010: C.J. Lee gets called for a phantom goaltender interference with 10 seconds left to nullify what would have been a game-tying goal by Nick Bailen. Seth Appert is suspended by the league for the mere act of showing the video replay of the call without commentary. Referee: Bryan Hicks. (As an aside, this also happened in a game against Sacred Heart this season - Lee called for interference that no one but the referee could see to disallow a goal, though RPI was cruising by that point so it was fairly inconsequential. Referee: Tim Kotyra.)

January 26, 2013: Nick Bailen gets called for interference after standing up the man with the puck at the blueline with 1:23 left in a tied game, Union scores on the ensuing power play. Referee: Tim Kotyra.

Well now... pretty sure you know who our favorite referees are.

First off, this isn't a knock on Union, not in the slightest. You get your opportunities, you take them and you walk away. Personally, I prefer to feel like we won fair and square to having to sneak out with a win served up for you by a bonehead call, but a win is a win and you can't fault Union for taking the win.

Bonehead calls can go both ways. I can recall feeling like we stole one in 2007 when Tyler Helfrich scored his first collegiate goal off a puck batted in with a high stick against Sacred Heart in overtime for a 1-0 victory. And of course, perhaps karma is just battering us over the head repeatedly for winning a national championship on a highly questionable goal in 1985 (and if it is... enough already, karma, I think we're square by now.)

And believe me, it doesn't take a loss to recognize awful officiating. RPI beat Boston University 4-1 two seasons ago in a game that was dreadfully officiated (hello, Bryan Hicks!). Heck, there was plenty of grumbling about the officiating this season after the second Mercyhurst game (Hicks again), and the Colgate game two weeks ago (yup), both wins.

Personally, I prefer to know in tight situations whether a win was legit. The night after Lee's phantom interference call, RPI tied Union with a Marty O'Grady goal at 19:59.8 of the third period, and won on a power play goal in overtime off a cross-checking call in the Union zone. I recall examining both the goal and the penalty with a high level of scrutiny - ultimately, I was satisfied (the goal beat the horn, and the penalty was pretty dangerous), but not by much.

These guys don't have some kind of weird vendetta against RPI or something. The Engineers are 13-25-4 all time in games where Tim Kotyra is on the ice, a .357 winning percentage against a .454 total winning percentage without him during that span (since 1999-2000). That's not outrageous. In fact, RPI has a winning record with Bryan Hicks on the ice (9-7-1 since 2008-09), which is better than their overall winning percentage during the same time period.

That's not what this is about. It's about making the right call at crunch time, and these guys just seem to keep turning up like bad pennies. We're not here making complaints about Bob St. Lawrence, Jean-Yves Roy, or Andy O'Brien, and we see these guys plenty, too. Makes you wonder.

Both teams have to play with the referees they are given, but the bottom line when certain zebras are out there is that when you play in close games - and RPI/Union is frequently close, and one or the other has done 11 of them over the years - you are leaving yourself open to having to deal with the consequences of a bad call.

Paul Stewart likes to respond to criticism of referees with something along the lines of "tryouts in August, come lace them up!" In other words, if you personally cannot do a better job, keep your mouth shut.

Sorry, Stewie. This isn't our problem. It's yours, whether you want to admit that it exists or not.

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