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Worst Rule Ever Strikes Again

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I've never intended for this to become a weekly feature, but it just kind of works out this way. The most confusing and poorly written rule in the rulebook reared its' ugly head again this past weekend.

In the third period of Saturday's game, Minnesota State's Jason Wiley deflected the puck into the net off his body. It was originally ruled a goal on the ice, and the officials immediately went to the penalty box to review the goal. And then nothing happened. For a really long time. The review of the goal took roughly ten minutes. Players from both teams had to start skating to keep their muscles warm during the extended delay. One of the linesmen had to be called into the box, because the two officials weren't enough. People started to boo. And then it ended up taking so long that they got tired of booing. Actually, that happened twice during the sequence.

Finally, they came out and ruled no goal. I guess that 173rd look at it showed something 100% conclusive that they missed the first 172 times.

Friday night wasn't much better. I'll let someone not in the Lunatic Fringe tell the story:

In the third, with UW clinging to a 3-2 lead, a centering pass from freshman pivot Derek Stepan hit the right skate of Gorowsky and caromed past Mankato goaltender Mike Zacharias (32 saves).

Referee Todd Anderson looked at the sequence on video along with partner Pete Freesma and waived it off, telling Eaves that Gorowsky used a distinct kicking motion, which is illegal.

“I don’t know how he made that distinction after watching it on video,” Gorowsky said. “I didn’t know I touched the puck at all. I saw it come through and I tried to hit it with my stick and I thought it went all the way through. I looked and it was in the back of the net.”

Eaves’ voice was elevated during a postgame discussion with Greg Shepherd, the WCHA supervisor of officials. When Eaves emerged from the ante room, he was diplomatic and terse with a sense of humor thrown in when asked about the two goals that weren’t.

“I’m not going to go down that path,” he said. “Obviously they were critical times in the game. Unless I was willing to give you a $1,000 check right now — unfortunately I called my wife and she said I can’t — I’m not going to say anything about those things.”

Public criticism of game officials could result in a fine from the WCHA, something Eaves tried to avoid.

“Those viewpoints that those gentlemen have certainly aren’t the ones we have,” he said.

As much as I want to blame Star of the Show Todd Anderson for these calls, I don't know that I can--though the absolutely absurd length of the reviews is a different issue. Both calls were probably right since, as best I can surmise, the rules seem to say it's almost always the right call to disallow a puck off the skate. And I'm not inclined to believe Gorowsky's "What puck? I didn't even know there was a puck on the ice!" act. Wiley didn't seem to move much, if it all, as the puck deflected off him, but had to have known what was going to happen when the puck came towards him. Both probably belong in a difficult gray area in terms of intent to deflect the puck.

The fact is the officials are at the mercy of a terrible rule. It's near impossible to determine a player's intent, even if you look at video of it for ten minutes. You can tell if it hit his skate or if it didn't, but breaking it down like the Zapruder film to try and figure out if a player meant to deflect the puck off his skate is futile. The only way you're going to avoid frustration like this is to either allow everything off of a skate, or nothing off a skate.