Friday night in Denver, Minnesota freshman Kyle Rau was guilty of a late and high hit on Denver sophomore forward and Wild draft pick Jason Zucker.
Rau was given a five minute major and a game misconduct, which left him eligible to play in Saturday's game.
At least, that was the case until the WCHA took over the case. The league suspended Rau for Saturday's game, won by Denver 4-3 in overtime to complete a sweep (the Pioneers won 5-3 Friday). Zucker didn't play in the game, either, thanks to an upper body injury suffered on the hit.
I honestly don't have a serious problem with Rau being suspended. It's a high hit, a charge, and Zucker had long since released the puck before the contact. Admiring a pass? Maybe, but it's not 1986 anymore.
The issue I brought up with many people on Saturday was precedent.
On Jan. 13, North Dakota forward Danny Kristo was guilty of this hit on Minnesota defenseman Ben Marshall.
Kristo received a five and a game, embarrassed himself with his behavior, and was not suspended by the league. This came despite the recent Jack Jablonski news, and despite video that seems to indicate Kristo's hit was at least on par with Rau's.
At the time, I wrote that the league was missing the boat.
It starts, in this case, with discipline. There is no reason why the WCHA should allow Kristo to play Saturday night. He embarrassed himself and his program with that sophomoric tirade after getting the boot, but before that, he committed a flagrant infraction with a dangerous hit. His follow-through suggests an intent beyond just playing a physical game.
At some point, someone has to get serious about this. With all the talk about hitting from behind all week long -- and at all levels of the game -- how can anyone think this is a clean hit? Not only is it not a clean hit, but at no point in the play is Kristo moving to do anything that would be a clean hit. Marshall didn't turn at the last second. Kristo didn't bump a guy who lost an edge. He plastered a guy from behind, and followed through with a jab to the head as he "finished his check."
In reality, Rau can probably thank Kristo for this suspension. The league couldn't afford to screw up and let a guy get away with no supplemental discipline after another dirty hit. Rau happened to be the most flagrant case available since they missed on suspending Kristo.
As we move into the stretch run, the message has hopefully been sent. Play dirty, and the league will make you pay the price.
If the message hasn't been sent, the league has to commit to trying again. Keep trying until the players get it right.