Saturday evening’s game between St. Cloud State and Minnesota was an excellent hockey game that ended in controversial fashion when, during the 3-on-3 overtime period, Minnesota’s Blake McLaughlin appeared to haul down St. Cloud State defender Nick Perbix as Perbix attempted to skate the puck out of his own zone. McLaughlin picked up the loose puck and immediately found teammate Sammy Walker in front of the net for the game-winning goal.
Here’s a clip of the play in question:
St. Cloud fans, predictably, were not pleased with the no call, with a number of people in attendance throwing debris on the ice as the game ended.
On Sunday evening, the NCHC released a statement admitting that a call should have been made on the play.
A couple thoughts on the play:
-It’s worth remembering in the greater context just how inconsequential this is likely to be. Any games decided in a 3-on-3 overtime count as only 55% of a win for the victorious team in national computer rankings, so it’s much closer to a tie than an actual win for Minnesota. Both teams are likely to comfortably be in the national tournament at the end of the year so this result isn’t going to make much difference. Whether that makes any sense—it doesn’t—is up for debate, and likely will be up for debate for a fourth consecutive biennial cycle when the NCAA Rules Committee meets this summer.
-All of that is likely of little solace to St. Cloud State fans. It’s a frustrating way for a game to end, especially such an intense one with a former rival. The league’s admission of a mistake likely doesn’t do much to ease that pain either, but there is really not much else they can do. Referees make mistakes sometimes and this one happened to come at an unfortunate time. I do think it’s a nice move by the NCHC to address it, and they should be applauded for their commitment to transparency.
-As for the play itself, yes, it was a mistake. The key wording in the NCHC’s statement is that “a minor penalty or penalties should have been issued...”. Which is to say, even if you’re one of the few people who believe Perbix went down a little too easily on that play—I’m not sure why he would given he already has position and a 3-on-2 or possible 2-on-1—it’s indisputable that McLaughlin gets a whole handful of Perbix’s jersey as he comes around the net:
So even if the interpretation is that Perbix embellished the play, play still should have been stopped and coincidental minors should have been handed out.
Unfortunately, even though the official is in the right position on the play, I don’t think he had a good angle to see Perbix get grabbed from behind.
-There is probably a greater discussion to be had about the unwritten standard for a penalty to be called being whether a player falls down or not, which incentivizes players to go down much more than the threat of an embellishment penalty.
One place that debate isn’t likely to happen though, will be in the Rules Committee, as they’re likely to spend an eighth consecutive year trying to tweak the overtime format.
-This, however, can’t be debated: Even if the call was wrong, you shouldn’t throw things on the ice. Please be better.