Saturday, March 14, 2015

Saturday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: Controversial Winning Goal Sends UMD to Brink of NCHC Tourney Elimination

DENVER -- Well, that sure was interesting.

In a game slowed by two long video reviews, Denver's third goal of the third period -- and third of the game for Ty Loney -- stood as the difference in a 4-3 win over UMD Friday night. Denver takes a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three into Saturday's Game 2.

There was no shortage of controversy. A long video review led to a Denver short-handed goal being disallowed in the second period. I believe it was because Danton Heinen made contact with UMD goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo, though it was never made clear over the PA system.

(Closed circuit to the NCHC: I know I've whined about this before, but if we're not going to mic the officials and make them explain this stuff themselves, and if we're not going to put a shock collar on PA guys to make them relay the info, can we at least get a statement from the league on any video review, ala the NHL Situation Room? Not asking much, just "play was reviewed because of X, goal either stands or doesn't stand, and why that ruling was reached.

I'm pretty sure I am not the only radio guy in the sport who has struggled to get this information in real time because we have jobs to do and can't necessarily drop everything to listen to a PA announcement, assuming there is one. Seems like an easy thing to do that wouldn't require the NCAA be on board. I've put this to the league's attention and probably will again.)

Then after Denver had tied and re-tied the game, the Pioneers scored to go ahead with less than five to play. Loney's goal stood after a lengthy review.

(UMD fan @CampBenCh on Twitter puts together awesome animations of these plays. Give him a follow. Best part is you can pause and rewind them.)

It's a high stick. I'd almost bet my plane ticket home, that's how confident I am. But it is what it is. I'll go back to what I said on the air during the video review, high sticks are very tough to call, both live action and on replay. When reviewing, you almost always need multiple angles, and if it isn't a clean look -- and this is not a clean look, at least not with the angles Ben was able to get on the video he posted -- it's going to be tough for the referees to overturn the existing call. Makes it even tougher when the offensive player is motioning downward with his stick as he makes contact.

(More telling to me than the high stick were the immediate reactions of the players in the area, especially Loney, who reacted as if he was certain he had just done something to keep that goal from counting. You'd think someone would be a little more joyous after completing a hat trick in a playoff game to give his team the lead. But maybe I'm thinking too much. It happens.)

If you're going to rag on the officials, who get enough crap from the coaches (Denver's Jim Montgomery got so angry at one point that his face turned almost redder than a tomato, and Scott Sandelin was quite irate at the end of the game) and don't need our input, that's fine. But I'd rather you pointed your frustrations toward the fact that this hit from behind didn't lead to an ejection, and this hit wasn't called at all.

(The first hit, by DU's Josiah Didier on UMD's Justin Crandall, was a straight five-minute major for boarding, and not a check from behind, which would have been an automatic game misconduct. Looks like a textbook check from behind. Remember, even if you think Crandall turned, the rule clearly states that in a play like this along the boards, the onus is on the checking player to deliver a clean hit [Taken from Rule 50.1: "The committee reminds coaches and players that the responsibility remains with the player approaching an opponent along the boards in this rule. While players turning to draw penalties are a concern, the positive change in behavior the committee observed outweighs this issue. Any penalty in relation to this rule along the boards or into the goal cage must be a major penalty and a game misconduct or disqualification."]. The second hit, by Denver forward Larkin Jacobson on Andy Welinski, was where Sandelin went off in frustration. It might have been more of a combination of things than a reaction to this single hit, but clearly he wasn't happy with the men in stripes.)

In the end, the officials cost UMD nothing. Players still have to play, and DU was able to make a couple big plays in the third period. For the fifth time this season, these two entertained everyone in attendance. I expect that number to grow to six and maybe seven  before the weekend is out.


To be perfectly honest, I thought Denver had the puck too much in the third period. UMD started to run around a little bit in the defensive zone, and that usually leads to trouble for any team. Denver made a couple big plays and took advantage of its offensive zone time. The Pioneers then defended pretty darn well when UMD had Kasimir Kaskisuo pulled for an extra attacker.

That said, UMD did a great job forechecking, especially in the first half of the game. DU couldn't get a whole lot going, and it started in its own zone, where UMD was all over the puck. The Bulldogs did a great job pressuring in the right places, the right situations, and on the right people. It disrupted Denver's ability to make plays up the rink. When facing a team like the Pioneers that is so good off the rush and so good in transition, the ability to slow them down before they get started is critical.

It's little things when you're in a tight matchup like this one. UMD put forth a very good effort on Friday, one of its best efforts of the season when you consider the absences the Bulldogs are dealing with. If you just crawled out from under a rock, Adam Krause was suspended for this game because of his kneeing major last weekend against Western Michigan. Oh, and Alex Iafallo has mono. They're both here, and Iafallo has been skating, but I don't foresee him playing. With Blake Young left home injured, UMD had ten actual forwards dressed Friday, with defensemen Dan Molenaar and Nick McCormack playing on the third and fourth lines, respectively.

Even that wasn't a permanent condition. Austyn Young played some right wing with Jared Thomas and Cal Decowski, with the two masquerading defensemen and Charlie Sampair all used a little more sparingly than normal fourth-liners might be.

Getting Krause back will help UMD's wall play a little bit. The Bulldogs are usually pretty strong on the boards, but I thought they lost a few more puck battles than usual. Makes sense considering Krause is probably their best player on the wall and he was in a suit. Hopefully Crandall's injury isn't too serious, because that would be a blow to UMD's grit, as well as the penalty kill. He was able to finish the game, but without knowing the nature of his injury, it's impossible to say if he can continue in the series or not. We'll have to wait and see.

If Crandall and Krause both play Saturday, one of the defensemen will come out, and UMD will have three full forward lines and a fourth line that features a blue-liner but can at least be used occasionally. I did think DU was a little fresher in the third, but the gap wasn't as significant as I expected, considering the Pioneers used their fourth line more often and we were playing at altitude (a bit of an overrated factor in some ways, but still a factor for sure).

I expect UMD will force a Game 3 if it can give the kind of effort it did on Friday. There will be adjustments by both teams, but everything the coaches will want to do starts with a strong effort. Without that, they've got nothing. And it's not fair to just blame the bounces. Those matter, but I firmly believe UMD will be just fine if it can duplicate its Friday effort.


Only one road team won in the NCHC Friday, and it took double overtime for it to happen. St. Cloud State's David Morley scored his second of the game in the second OT as the Huskies won at Omaha 2-1. Morley opened the scoring in the first period before UNO's Austin Ortega scored short-handed to draw the Mavericks even in the second.

Miami trailed Western Michigan 3-2 in the third before getting the final three goals in a 5-3 victory. Blake Coleman tallied twice, including the game-winner, and had two assists for Miami. Riley Barber had two apples, while Sheldon Dries led Western with a goal and an assist. Miami is now 4-0-1 against Western Michigan this season.

In Grand Forks, the top seed North Dakota breezed by Colorado College 5-1. Senior defenseman Nick Mattson remains on a tear, with a goal and two assists on Friday.

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