Monday, January 18, 2010

Remembering Our Three-Hour Tour

Who the hell knew that 63:43 of college hockey could take nearly three hours to play?

Found out the hard way on Saturday night in Mankato.

That's when UMD and Minnesota State hooked up for one of the more insane games you could ever imagine.

The opening game of the teams' two-game series lasted 2:22, which is remarkably average for a college hockey game. How did Saturday's game take 36 minutes more of real time to play, despite only requiring 3:43 more of clock time?

There were a few factors that came into play.

For starters, there was a delay when UMD defenseman Scott Kishel took a flagrant elbow in the head from Minnesota State's Kael Mouillierat. Once Kishel figured out where he was and got off the ice, there was another delay while referees Don Adam and Chris Welker worked out what would be called (five and a game on Mouillierat, which was the correct call if not arrived at properly).

After they made their call, Adam spent what felt like 15 minutes talking with MSU coach Troy Jutting, whose face turned a few different shades while he got his explanation, then attempted to contribute at least a quarter above and beyond his requisite two cents.

Later in the second period, more ugliness ensued, and Adam and Welker should be credited for working hard to identify what penalties needed to be called for an incident that swallowed up virtually every skater on the ice at the time.

From my (admittedly biased) eyes, it looked like MSU instigated the fracas, so it was mildly irritating to see that the Mavericks were the recipients of a two-minute two-man advantage for their efforts. Didn't seem right (still doesn't).

Apparently, this wasn't good enough for Jutting, because he had another animated conversation with the officials.

He delayed the game even further in the third period, arguing over a call/non-call/procedural issue*. Even some of the MSU fans within earshot of us seemed to be a bit perturbed at this point with Jutting's antics.

(* - UMD was called for icing about midway through the third. Bulldog coach Scott Sandelin mulled over the situation, and elected to use his team's timeout to get a tired group of skaters some rest, as no line changes can be made by a team that ices the puck. At this point, the media timeout scheduled for the first whistle under ten minutes to play in the period was taken, and there could have been an issue over this procedural move by the off-ice officials. We were told by a source that the move was correct. In reality, we'll probably never know what Jutting was talking to Adam about.)

A lot happened this weekend. The Mavericks were their normal chippy and hard-hitting selves, crossing the line too many times for my comfort, but it's not my team. Hockey is a contact sport, and sometimes you have to fight through stuff you don't think you should have to fight through. It's the way things go.

This isn't at all about ripping Adam and Welker. Others on hand may vehemently disagree, but I felt like they did the best they could. They saw things getting out of hand a bit in Friday's game, and they tried to put a stop to it early Saturday night. They did a better job with head hits on Saturday, and they didn't royally mess up the major skirmish late in the second period.

Despite all that happened, they did a fine job getting out of the way and letting the players decide things in the third period.

That said, I do have to wonder how much one coach should be allowed to beak at the officials before they finally turn their heads. Sandelin works the officials, but I have never seen him grandstand and delay the hockey game the way Jutting did on Saturday. It was borderline embarrassing to see him continue to have the officials' ears seemingly whenever he wanted.

A game that had little chance at serious flow was left with no hope of flow, mainly because Jutting was constantly allowed to speak his mind.

There is a fine line between being an arrogant egomaniac who ignores the pleas and protests of coaches, and being the guy who will always listen to their gripes and can't politely say "Shut up, coach. We have a game to play."

We need to find that line more consistently, for the sake of everyone's sanity.

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