Monday, March 5, 2012

Hectic Hockey

Monday is the off-day at the ACHA National Tournament, a chance for the final four teams to recharge their batteries after two and three days of physical action.

It's also a chance for yours truly and the Executive Producer to recharge our batteries after spending three full days at the Hoover Arena. It also gives me a chance to put some thoughts together on what happened as far as the Icers are concerned.

As we all know by now, three of the top four teams have survived the opening rounds. Top-ranked Penn State will face #13 Oakland in the first semi-final at 5pm on Tuesday.

The Icers on Saturday overcame a slow start and knocked off 17th-ranked West Virginia 4-1 before dispatching #9 Oklahoma 6-3 in a wacky quarter-final contest that I'll dissect in depth later.

Oakland is this year's Cinderella squad. The #13 Golden Grizzlies easily disposed of Mercyhurst 8-0 in their play-in game on Friday. On Saturday they overcame a two goal deficit and upset #4 Arizona State 3-2 in the first overtime contest of the tourney.

Oakland opened Saturday's action by exacting a large measure of revenge on GLCHL rival, #13 Adrian, with a 5-4 win in a gritty, chippy affair.

Meanwhile, #2 Lindenwood takes on #3 Delaware in the late contest tomorrow, scheduled to faceoff at 8pm.

The Lions cruised past #15 Central Oklahoma 5-2 on Saturday, then held off a determined Minot State squad in the quarterfinal. The 7th-ranked Beavers trailed 6-1 after two periods but scored three in the third before an empty-net goal gave LU a 7-4 victory.

Delaware knocked off defending champion Davenport 3-1 on Saturday and then took part in an instant classic on Saturday. The Blue Hens and #6 Ohio needed 89 minutes to decide who would move on. Mark Zeszut's goal at 9 minutes of the second overtime crushed the Bobcats' hopes of a spot in the final four.

It was the second year in a row that Delaware went to 2 OT's in the quarterfinals. A year ago, on their home rink, they defeated Adrian before losing to Lindenwood in the semifinal.

Okay, on to the turmoil at the end of the second period. To set the stage, the Icers rallied from a 2-0 first period deficit to the Sooners and were tied 3-3 after 40 minutes on two goals by Bryce Johnson and another by Michael Longo.

At the end of the period Justin Kirchhevel and Oklahoma goalie Nick Holmes apparently had a literal tete-a-tete near the Sooners' net.

The OU players coming off the bench at the end of the period streamed toward the pair. Fortunately, cooler heads (for the most part) prevailed and after a couple of minutes everyone headed to their respective locker rooms, including the officials.

I must admit that surprised me. I did not see what transpired between Holmes and Kirchhevel, but I fully expected there would have been penalties called out of all of the activity. However, the officials went right to their locker room, bypassing the timekeepers' bench.

It's when the teams came out to start the third that the episode took a bizarre turn. The referee first went to Guy Gadowsky, then had a lengthy conversation with the timekeeper, and then went to Sooners coach Peter Arvanitis. While that exchange was taking place, the scoreboards lit up with a 5-minute major for Holmes and 4 minutes for Kirchhevel!

Holmes was already in his crease ready to go, and with his mask pushed back on top of his head, everyone in the building could see that he was incensed. After seemingly endless minutes of confusion, Holmes was escorted to the penalty box and backup netminder Colin Fernandes had to replace him.

The Sooners freshman had no chance to loosen up, and the Icers took full advantage. Tommy Olczyk and Domenic Morrone scored in the fist 1:01 and there's your hockey game.

The Icers shut down the Sooners the rest of the way, with Mike Longo adding an empty-netter for a 6-3 final score.

I will admit that I was critical of the officials and said that I thought that Holmes should have been done for the game. I also opined that both coaches should have been told of the penalties either right after the end of the period or early in the intermission. I stand corrected on the former, but stand by what I said on the latter. I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

To clarify, the NCAA rulebook says:
A player shall not head-butt an opponent with the face mask or helmet. Head-butting includes all cases in which a head-butting gesture is made, regardless of whether contact occurs.
PENALTY—Major or disqualification at the discretion of the referee.

According to Sec. 7(b), Holmes rightly sat in the box to serve his major, accompanied by a teammate.
If a goalkeeper incurs a major or misconduct penalty, the goalkeeper shall serve the time penalty; but a substitute player in goalkeeper’s equipment shall be allowed in the game replacing some other player. When a major penalty is assessed, a player without goalkeeper’s equipment shall go to the penalty bench with the goalkeeper and shall go on the ice in place of the penalized goalkeeper when the penalty time has expired. The penalized goalkeeper may not leave the penalty bench until the first stoppage in play after the expiration of the penalty.

More confusion arose when the PA announcer announced that Holmes was also assessed a ten minute misconduct. That led to many saying that he came out of the box too early.

However, the official boxscore shows no misconduct for Holmes. Therefore, he returned to the game at the correct point.

The photos here were taken by Barb during the first period of the Oklahoma game. She's been a great help all weekend (as always) and finally got a chance to enjoy the game as a fan. But she could only watch one period from the perch where she shot these photos before wanting to join our friends in the Icers family to cheer the boys to the win.