Friday, November 21, 2014

BOHICA

We got two up close and personal examples of Rule 83.5 this past weekend in Troy. One was an exercise in how to apply it. The other was an exercise in how to royally screw things up in ways only the average ECAC referee can.

This is known around these parts as the "Second Union Rule" or the "National Union Rule," as it was adopted following the Union-Michigan State game in the 2012 national tournament where a goal for the Spartans was waved off because Union's Josh Jooris, apparently intentionally according to the NCAA, lifted the net off its moorings just before the puck went in (the "First Union Rule" or the "ECAC Union Rule" provides for all 12 ECAC teams making the post-season tournament).

The rule was redefined as such in the summer of 2012:
83.5 Goal Cage Dislodged - In the event that the goal post is displaced, either deliberately or accidentally, by a defending player, prior to the puck crossing the goal line between the normal position of the goalposts, the Referee may award a goal. 
In order to award a goal in this situation, the goal post must have been displaced by the actions of a defending player, the puck must have been shot (or the player must be in position to shoot) at the goal prior to the goal post being displaced, and it must be determined that the puck would have entered the net between the normal position of the goal posts. 
When the goal post has been displaced deliberately by the defending team when their goalkeeper has been removed for an extra attacker thereby preventing an impending goal by the attacking team, the Referee shall award a goal to the attacking team. 
The goal frame is considered to be displaced if either or both goal pegs are no longer in their respective holes in the ice, or the net has come completely off one or both pegs, prior to or as the puck enters the goal. This rule also applies to other types of net anchoring systems.
So there are a few elements to examine here.

First, there's a defined difference between "may award a goal" and "shall award a goal." The referee is given leeway to award a goal but is not required to when this happens with the goaltender in the net. If it's an empty net, he's required.

This is pretty standard, it allows the referees to use judgment when it pertains to the other elements that we're about to discuss.

In order for the goal to be awarded, three things have to be true. First, the goal has to have been dislodged by the actions of a defending player. This would include a defending player pushing an attacking player into the net - the reverse would be cause for disallowing a goal. Second, the puck must have been already shot, or the shooting player must already be in position to shoot, when the net is dislodged. Third, the puck must be determined to have crossed the line where it would have counted had the net been in the proper position.

Let's examine this first in the Princeton game, where a Princeton goal was disallowed.

With RPI leading 1-0, Princeton's Ryan Siiro took a shot toward the RPI cage from the top of the right faceoff circle that was saved by Jason Kasdorf, the rebound falling just to his right. Princeton's Ben Foster worked it free and came around behind the net to the left side.

Foster beat out Jimmy DeVito to grab the rebound, but Craig Bokenfohr and Phil Hampton skated into the area to try and help out - Bokenfohr into the mix with Foster and DeVito, Hampton into the crease. Princeton freshman Eric Robinson arrived late to the party and ultimately checked Hampton into the cage, knocking it loose.

At this point, Foster had the puck to the left of the cage. He passed it to Siiro, who moved into the slot, and Siiro one-timed it into the cage, which was off both of its moorings at that point.


This goal was rightfully disallowed because the circumstances met only one of the three criteria for it to be upheld. Siiro's shot did go where the net would have been, but it was the actions of an attacking player - Robinson checking Hampton - that dislodged the net, and the shot was not imminent when the net was dislodged - Foster had the puck behind the cage and passed it in front only after the net came loose.

Referee CJ Hanafin got this one right from start to finish. He did the right thing by awarding a goal on the ice, then reviewing the play. Under Rule 83.5, this is not a goal, so he disallowed it. For anyone who might still be on the fence, Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty agreed after the game after reviewing video that the goal should not have been awarded. (We like Hanafin a lot because he's an Engineer. Some of us here were crestfallen when we heard he'd become an ECAC referee, but he seems to be raising the bar. He's done well so far and he's been fair.)

Compare this with the disallowed RPI goal the next night against Quinnipiac.

On the power play and with RPI down 2-1, Mike Prapavessis digs the puck out of the corner to the left of the net. He brings it up and around through the faceoff circle and the slot, waiting for his opportunity to catch QU goaltender Michael Gartieg off balance. He gets it when defenseman Connor Clifton, also trying to defend against Prapavessis, falls to a knee and into Gartieg. Prapavessis takes his shot and rings it off the post, the rebound coming straight back out.

Meanwhile, once Clifton and Gartieg collide, QU forward Matthew Peca, standing at the top of the crease, makes a bee-line for the net, sliding into the right-side post to dislodge the net shortly after Prapavessis' shot rebounded off the post. Drew Melanson, now standing over Clifton, does not move with the puck coming directly back to him, and simply puts the puck into the open but dislodged cage.


The goal was awarded on the ice, and it met all three requirements. First, the cage was dislodged by the actions of Peca, who skated straight into the cage unaided. Second, while the shot by Melanson did not come before the cage was dislodged, the rebound from Prapavessis' shot (which happened and hit the post before the dislodging) was coming straight to him already and he did not have to move to take the shot, which occurred a split-second after the net was dislodged. Third, the puck clearly enters the net in a way that it would have been in had the goal been in the proper place.

And despite all of this, the tying goal was waved off. In a search for justification, there are some very, very thin arguments that can be made. All four were posited by our researchers in an attempt to find something that would rationalize the goal being waved off.

1. Melanson is near Clifton just before the latter takes out his own netminder, but he doesn't appear to do anything that would cause Clifton to go down. He does push through Clifton, who is impeding his progress forward, in the bottom of the slot with his stick on the ice. If he'd shoved Clifton into Gartieg, that could be goaltender interference (which was never suggested anyway), but it doesn't seem to be there.

2. While Peca is moving to the net, Melanson's stick is in his vicinity, but it's tough to make even a cursory argument that Melanson did anything to put Peca into the net. It's possible, even likely that Peca was only trying to get himself in a position to defend Prapavessis' initial shot, but he's honestly lucky that he wasn't called for delay of game.

3. One could try to make the argument that Melanson wasn't yet preparing to take his shot at the moment the puck was dislodged, but the shot, based on the trajectory and speed of the rebound and the fact that Clifton and Gartieg were taken out of the play, was clearly imminent at the time the net was dislodged by any reasonable definition of the word.

4. The last question is whether the whistle had blown, or whether there was "intent to blow." That's rendered fairly irrelevant by the fact that the referee behind the net never came close to blowing the play dead (he had his arms at his sides the whole time), and in fact signaled a goal on the ice.

Ultimately, this is exactly the type of situation that the Second Union Rule was intended to fix, and the referees blew it. Compounding the error, it was called a goal on the ice, and then waved off without clear evidence to support a reversal.

By the way, this was not the first time last weekend that Quinnipiac got away with one on a bad call by the referees that directly impacted the scoreline. The previous night in Schenectady, the Bobcats notched the game winner on a play in which the goal-scorer was offsides.

It's not possible to tell with 100% surety from this camera angle because of people standing on the Union bench, but unless the 5'7" Travis St. Denis (bottom of the screen) has abnormally sized legs, he's totally offside right before he takes a pass he ends up putting in the net for the winning goal.
No coach is going to get overly upset over calls that are blown this badly, because most teams still have other opportunities to rectify the problem themselves. Bad calls are part of the game and referees are human, but you'd think they'd at least get the call right with the opportunity to review the play. It's true that the Engineers had other chances before and after this call to get a goal and they didn't. This goal being disallowed wasn't the reason they lost on Saturday. Who knows if QU then goes down and scores off the ensuing faceoff or something. But there's no team that wouldn't prefer to be in a 2-2 situation than down 2-1, and the missed call changes things for the worse for the team being dealt a raw deal. Union in particular had less than a minute to make up for the bad call that put them behind.

So now the league has a team in first place, half of whose wins were assisted by the men in stripes. Are we happy?

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