Ok, I'm pretty sure I specifically said no sucker-punches from behind in my post on Friday afternoon.
I know where you think I'm going with this, but this actually doesn't involve North Dakota.
Minnesota and Minnesota State had a pretty ugly weekend series in which 6 major penalties were called.
The game got off to a rough start when Minnesota's Jake Hansen threw a pretty nasty check from behind and was only given 5 minutes for boarding, for some reason, rather than the obvious 5 and a game for a check from behind. It got worse in the second period when Minnesota State's Trevor Bruess hit Tony Lucia's head into the boards, causing his helmet to come off. Bruess received 5 minutes for unnecessary roughness and a game misconduct, which was then switched to a game disqualification after the game.(I can't find a video of this hit. If anyone has it, I'd appreciate it being posted) Tony Lucia sat out Saturday's game, but should be in the lineup next weekend against Wisconsin.
So emotions were already running high heading into the third period, and to make matters worse, Minnesota State led 6-1, meaning the game was pretty much out of reach.
In the third period, Minnesota State's Channing Boe hit Jay Barriball from behind, and referee Todd Anderson had his arm up to make the call. As he blows the whistle to call the penalty, Minnesota's Brian Schack comes racing over 100 feet and jumps on Boe from behind, tackles him to the ground and starts throwing punches, even after Boe has lost his helmet and is unable to defend himself. Here is one video of the incident happening in real time. I can't find a good video of the replay that shows the initial hit and Schack hunting Boe down, because the one I saw has since been set to private.
Anyway, Boe was extremely lucky to escape serious injury from being punched repeatedly while he was down on the ice, but when he was tackled, his leg got rolled up under somebody and he broke his leg. He is done for the season.
So Brian Schack ended a player's season with an over-the-top retaliation. What was Don Lucia's reaction to this? Condemn the unnecessary violence? Nope. Apologize for one of his players ending the season of an opponent in an intentional and malicious manner? Nope. Act like a total dick? Absolutely.
For those that missed it, he said, "If we're not going to enforce the rules, we're going to have to find, recruit players that will."
That's disgusting. Boe's hit from behind was terrible, but no different than Hansen's hit from behind earlier in that game. Did Hansen deserve to have his leg snapped and his season ended? Also, as the replay clearly shows, referee Todd Anderson has his arm up to call a penalty on Boe, and Boe's penalty was stiffer than the one handed out to Hansen--though ultimately, the game misconduct was inconsequential thanks to Schack. What else are the officials supposed to do? Same with Bruess' hit. It was terrible, but looking at the punishment it received, it's hard to argue that it was undercalled. If anything on the night was undercalled, it was Brian Schack racing across the ice and tackling Boe--which again, ended Boe's season--and only receiving a two-minute penalty for 'instigating'.
The good news is that Saturday's game was a much cleaner affair, at least from one side. But the game of hockey can have a sense of irony at times. Early in the second period of Saturday's game, Minnesota's Nico Sacchetti blatantly hit an MSU player from behind, and was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct. Everyone agreed it was the right call. A minute and a half later, Ryan Stoa was chasing Minnesota State's Kurt Davis behind the net--though Davis never actually touches the puck--and Stoa hit him into the boards. Some say the hit was shoulder-to-shoulder, though Stoa caught the back of Davis' shoulder and sent him face-first into the boards. Stoa was also given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct.
Lucia disagreed with the call in the postgame, and under normal circumstances, perhaps it would have been borderline. But clearly Lucia didn't think the officials were doing their part to protect the players, so I think they decided to call things a little tighter. Lucia should be thankful the officials decided to step in there, because apparently the other option is cheap-shotting someone and ending their season.
As it stands now, the only issue remaining is whether or not there will be any additional punishment doled out to Schack for his brutal beatdown. It's unlikely it will come from his coach since he seemed to condone, and even applaud, his actions, but I think it sets a pretty dangerous precedent if the WCHA allows players to headhunt like that. I say let the league handle the discipline and let Schack just worry about skating really slowly.
I think this also speaks to a growing problem of a lack of respect among players when it comes to letting up on a fight once a player is down on the ice in a vulnerable position. It's sad to think that Boe was lucky to come out of that with just a broken leg. Then again, the league didn't do much the last time a player in a vulnerable position got pummeled in a fight, or the time before that. Maybe Don Lucia is on to something. If the league doesn't step in and start enforcing a little more when these types of things happen, players will continue to take it into their own hands.