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Friday thoughts: The lone gunman

October 31, 2009

Strap in for a big one, kids.

Though we often play it up as though we are, in all actuality we aren’t conspiracy theorists. We believe that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, that the Illuminati doesn’t exist and that JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald (well, that one’s more of a grey area).

With that in mind, we feel secure in saying that it was probably just a coincidence that Tim Benedetto was assigned to officiate the first game between Lowell and BU since he so epically and infamously bungled the Hockey East Championship game last season. It was also probably just a coincidence that Lowell had a goal disallowed after video review apparently showed the a Lowell player “directed the puck” into the net with his skate. And it was, therefore probably just a coincidence that Lowell was the team to have a penalty called against it in overtime, which led to BU’s game-winning goal.

We are certainly more Scully than Mulder when it comes to these things, but at some point, even Scully had to say, “I do believe.”

Because while skepticism is healthy, the ever-mounting pile of evidence to the contrary has feeling a range of things right now: frustration, anger, sadness, incredulity, etc. etc. etc.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Lowell didn’t, we feel, play that well defensively throughout the game, but BU’s ineptitude on offense certainly helped keep it scoreless through the first period. The Terriers had so few moments where they looked themselves — their breakouts were sloppy and clearly flummoxed by Lowell’s lack of a system through the neutral zone — that we didn’t believe we were watching the same team from last year. Lowell, meanwhile, had the better offensive chances and BU was aided by the goal magically jumping off its moorings with the puck around the net twice in the period. But fair, one supposes, is fair, and given how both teams played in the period, a goalless draw was perfectly acceptable since neither played well enough to lead.

The second period, though, was dictated largely by Lowell, though the early scorelines don’t seem to indicate it. BU went up 1-0 and then 2-1 because B-A-D bad turnovers in the neutral and attacking zones led to odd-man rushes or stretch passes for breakaways. Note to Lowell’s defense: If you give Alex Chiasson a clean one-on-one shot on goal, he’s going to pick out a corner with virtuoso precision, as he did to open the scoring at 6:42 of the period. Carter Hutton was helpless on that one.

But BU’s defense being what it is (porous), Lowell was allowed to come right back into the game, as the ‘Hawks used the open ice created by a four-on-four situation to tie the game on a goalmouth scramble that saw Ben Holmstrom knock one off the crossbar and Paul Worthington open his account for the year on the rebound. But another bad breakdown, this time on the power play, sprung Chris Connolly and David Warsofsky for a shorthanded 2-on-1 and, obviously a goal, just under two minutes later.

Credit, we guess, has to go to both teams for being able to rebound from disappointment, because Mike Scheu scored his first of the year 1:59 after that to level the game again, and this time Lowell took all the momentum for itself. BU was playing back on its heels and Kieran Millan, who had another so-so night in what seems to be a string of them, was getting peppered. This resulted in what appeared to be a third Lowell goal, this time by David Vallorani. BUT WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, IT WAS DISALLOWED.

The play was basically this: Nick Schaus had the puck on the left side of the ice and David Vallorani (some say it was Scott Campbell, we were at the other end of the rink, so we defer and say it was whomever) was camped down on the right side, basically on the backdoor. The pass came to him and while he fanned on the shot attempt, the puck still hit him and went into the net. The call on the ice was that he had kicked it in, and here is where things get dicey (SURPRISE!). BU’s radio announcers thought it was a goal and had simply deflected off his shin pad. BU’s student newspaper liveblog said that, “The refs declare no goal after UML nets a puck off a player’s chest on the doorstep. Goals must be delivered off a skate or a stick in this game.” Those two had probably the best looks out of anyone. So let’s operate under the assumption that the puck did hop up and hit Vallorani in the chest, then bounced in, at least until we get a clearer description tomorrow morning.

The call on the ice, by the way, was that the attacking player “directed it” into the net. The statement that goals must be delivered off a skate or stick is, first of all, patently false. Maury Edwards could have a slapshot hit three people and a teammate’s facemask and, if it goes in, it’s a goal. Know how we know? Cuz we looked it up. Says the NCAA Ice Hockey rulebook:

A goal shall not be allowed in any of the following cases:

1. If an attacking player strikes the puck with a stick when the puck is above the height of the crossbar of the goal frame (4 feet);

He didn’t play it with a stick, point moot.

2. If the puck has been thrown or batted into the goal;

Nope, it just deflected off him.

3. If the attacking team has committed a foul that assisted in the making of a goal;

Also nope.

4. If the attacking team had too many players on the ice at the time the goal was scored;

There were only five of them plus Hutton.

5. If the goal was contributed to by a nonplayer;

What, like a helper monkey or something? Still no.

6. If the puck hits an official and goes directly into the net (see 6-43);

If Vallorani/Campbell was an official, then we think Lowell might’ve gotten a more equitable shake tonight.

7. If any member of the attacking team (other than the player in possession of the puck) was in or skating through the goal crease when the goal was scored from outside the crease, unless:

i.    The goalkeeper was outside the crease when the puck entered the net; or
ii. An attacking player was in the crease but, in the opinion of the official, did not prevent the goalkeeper from defending the goal.

No and no.

8. If the puck entered the net by an attacking player carrying the puck into the cage upon any part of the body, or kicking the puck into the cage;

He didn’t carry it and he didn’t kick it with what the rulebook calls “a distinct kicking motion.”

9. If the puck entered the net after an on-ice official (by blowing the whistle) or timekeeper has signaled play to stop;

That’s not it.

10. If an attacking player propels the puck illegally with the stick, and it deflects off any player into the net;

The puck was propelled legally.

11. If a linesman reports to a referee any conduct calling for a time penalty and the referee concurs with the report, any goal scored by the offending team after the infraction shall not be allowed;

Didn’t happen.

12. If the goal cage has been moved or dislodged. The goal frame is considered to be displaced if any portion of the goal frame is not in its proper position (e.g., Frame must be completely flat on the ice surface, goal posts must be in proper place and affixed securely in place with its pegs.).

Didn’t happen.

13. If the puck is between the goalkeeper’s pads or lodged in the equipment and is carried over the goal line by an opponent propelling the goalkeeper into the cage; and

Didn’t happen.

14. If the puck enters the defending team’s goal during a delayed offside, the goal is disallowed. The faceoff will be in the neutral zone at the faceoff spot nearest the attacking zone of the offending team, if the puck was “carried” offside. The faceoff shall be at spot in the zone of the origin of the pass, if passed offside.

Did not happen.

There is, some naysayers will point out, also rule 16-8-a, which states: “A goal shall not be allowed if the puck has been kicked or directed into the goal off an attacking player’s skate. When in doubt, the goal shall be disallowed. A goal shall be allowed if a puck deflects off an attacking player who is in the act of stopping. When administering this rule, the puck must initially be legally propelled by a stick.”

The conversations we had, or accounts we read, said it hit anywhere from the Lowell player’s shin pad to his arm to his chest, and at any rate the words “skate” or “kick” never came up. Said one pro-BU observer on USCHO.com’s forums after the game, “The puck was absolutely off the ice surface.”

So, what we have here is a situation in which Lowell appeared to have scored a goal against BU with Benedetto as the official and, aww heck gee willikers, it just didn’t count. Now to be fair, the original call here, unlike last season, was that there was no goal. We understand that. But they did send it upstairs. You just saw all the rules for what constitutes a disallowable goal. Did you see, anywhere in that 15 items, see something that said “directing the puck into the net with a body part that is not the foot?” We sure as hell did not, and that’s why we must now do something we thought we wouldn’t have to do.

We had heard the stories from a number of sources. That Benedetto was furious with himself for disallowing Lowell’s goal last season after he saw it on replay. That Jeff Bunyon, the other official that fateful March night, had personally apologized to Lowell fans (though not to us). This game, we thought, was Benedetto’s chance to redeem himself in our eyes and secure removal from the On Notice list. We displayed our “Apologize” signs to him prior to warmups. A simple nod would have sufficed as an admission of guilt and a plea of forgiveness. We didn’t need a written apology submitted in triplicate. Instead, he ignored them in a clear act of defiance. Then he metaphorically spit all over them and our faces, essentially saying, “Not only do I NOT feel bad for the Pearl Harbor job at the Garden, I gladly do it again.” This kind of nose-thumbery cannot, of course, go unpunished. And that is why Benedetto has left his officiating partner behind on the On Notice list and joined Hockey East’s corrupt commissioner as the only other figure so cartoonishly supervillainous toward Lowell that he warranted a place on a level nigh-unreachable: Eternal Archnemesis.

Oh right, the game: The score stood at 2-2 with both teams going up and down, but Lowell definitively carrying play, and that was what led to Lowell’s third goal, the one that gave them their only lead of the night. Michael Budd did what he was supposed to do, going to the front of the net and waiting for the rebound from a David Vallorani shot, which he banged past Millan with 2:36 to go in the period. Lowell, in fact, did a good job of this all night, as it wasn’t too often that Millan froze a puck without a River Hawk within a foot of him. That kind of presence around the net led directly to all four Lowell goals tonight.

But it was careless play and a terrible attempt at a stop by Hutton that led to BU’s equalizer off the stick of Zach Cohen early in the third. A poor job of keeping the puck deep allowed Eric Gryba of all people to engineer a breakout and the puck came to Cohen along the left wing. He fired a shot, soft and unscreened, from the boards near the top of the circle, and somehow it deflected of Hutton’s glove and in. A more devastating and awful goal he could not have given up. BU’s fourth goal, though, came from a goalmouth play that was positively Lowellian as Warsofsky netted his second of the night, tapping in a rebound that sat unattended on the weak side.

But BU, apparently ever eager to give up demoralizing goals of their own, conceded 1:25 later on an egregious defensive breakdown in their own zone that saw a shot come across the goalmouth to two completely uncovered Lowell players on the backdoor, and Nick Schaus, who had another abysmal game offensively (he was the guy back on the shortie, and committed to neither the shot nor the pass), punched home the game-tying goal with just 4:13 to go. Lowell began to seriously pick up momentum after that, hitting everyone in a red sweater, including Schaus depositing Joe Pereira into the Lowell bench with about 53 seconds left. BU held on for overtime, though Lowell once again had the better of the play and indeed nearly procured the game-winner with a goalmouth scramble inside of five seconds to go.

In overtime, things were fairly evenly matched but a blatant trip at the side of BU’s goal led to a BU 3-on-2 and Jeremy Dehner felt he had no recourse to try to separate a BU forward from the puck but to dive at his legs. Now, we will obviously concede that this was a clear and deserved penalty call, but our issue is that Lowell was denied an equally clear tripping call at the other end. That it went uncalled was not especially surprising since both teams had been hack-and-slashing their way through the final four minutes of regulation or so and overtime was no different. The whistles, we would have imagined, had been safely put away. But then this penalty? Was it by-the-book? Sure. Would it have been called in overtime if it had not been BU and, more specifically, Jack Park, that benefited? Probably not.

That call, though, did lead to Colby Cohen’s seeing-eye game-winner that found its way through we’ll guess four or fives bodies, bounced (we think) off Hutton, who cannot have seen it, and in. And that’s about all we have to say about that.

Lowell will try to get this win back tomorrow night and has to be encouraged, overall, by the way it played apart from allowing far too many odd-man rushes and breakaways. But they’ll have to do it without Barry Goers, who, from what our spies tell us, sprained his ankle early in the first period — and playing with five defensemen might go a ways to explain the aforementioned defensive lapses through the neutral zone. Lowell also didn’t get it done on special teams; 0 for 5 on the power play with a shorthanded goal conceded and just 3 for 4 on the PK. That’s unacceptable.

We will, by the way, be ordering the B2 feed and liveblogging tomorrow night’s game for those that, like us, didn’t want to pay BU’s absurd asking price for one ticket to a college hockey game. We’d be delighted if you would join us for that.

P.S. Hockey East is fixed.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2009 5:43 am

    I can’t believe it happened again. This just blows my mind. Absolutely unbelievable.

  2. RHHB permalink
    October 31, 2009 6:07 am

    or “totally predictable?”

    • October 31, 2009 8:23 pm

      I’ll admit to being completely ignorant to prior transgressions. The only thing I do know is that Benedetto has this terrible reputation throughout all of college hockey and to see him involved again is amazing.

      I can’t see how Hockey East thought it was a good idea to assign him to do these games after what happened in the tournament last year. Christ, send the guy to do the BC-Merrimack game instead.

  3. Steve permalink
    October 31, 2009 6:59 am

    You are utter fools if you think officials will acknowledge a fan’s sign directed at him. You really believed he’d nod and “apologize” to you?

  4. RHHB permalink
    October 31, 2009 7:03 am

    you can’t honestly be this stupid, can you steve?

  5. walter permalink
    November 7, 2009 5:20 pm

    Keep whining about the officials you clowns.

  6. RHHB permalink
    November 9, 2009 3:45 am

    okay!

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