BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Late in the first period of Friday’s East Regional semifinal, Michigan State scored what appeared to be an equalizer in a scrum in front of the Union net, batting a bouncing puck out of the air and into the back of the net.
“We didn’t pretend to come out here with an explosive offensive team, so we knew we’d have to scratch and claw to create offense against a tough defensive team,” Spartans coach Tom Anastos said.
Not so fast.
Referee Derek Shepherd called no goal on the ice, perhaps either because of the goalie controlling the puck or Shepherd losing sight of it.
The NCAA issued an official response that did not describe Shepherd’s reasoning for calling no goal on the ice. That call, however, set the stage for a video replay that found a unicorn of sorts: a goal that wasn’t a goal.
“We knew the puck went in the net because we had two real honest guys tell us it went in,” Anastos said jokingly.
The official NCAA report confirmed MSU’s assertion that “the puck enter[ed] the net.”
Where things got hairy though, is that this goal was ruled no goal.
“What we were surprised at was that they ruled that it was a no goal because the net was dislodged,” said Anastos.
Shepherd’s whistle and initial no-call did not appear to be a result of the net coming off of its moorings. And video replay showed that the net was dislodged by a Union skater.
Because the on-ice call was no goal, the video replay had to show a legal goal being scored, not just the puck crossing the goal line. According to the NCAA, the video replay showed that the net had become dislodged prior to crossing the goal line, so, by definition, “there was not conclusive video evidence to overturn the on-ice referee’s initial call.”
By the book, the referees seemed to get the replay review correct. But the Spartans might have good reason to feel burned by the constraints of the replay system.
In its statement, the NCAA at least tacitly agreed that the Union player had intentionally dislodged the net. It included in its statement that “penalties cannot be called by the use of video replay.”
The referees may have been handcuffed by the rules, which did not allow them to award a goal, a penalty or a penalty shot as a result of what happened. Rule 16, Section 18-12 requires that “[t]he net has to be in place when the puck crosses the goal line.”
Anastos, the former CCHA commissioner, gave the commissioner’s answer when asked about the goal that wasn’t.
“They gave it plenty of time, and I trust the process,” he said, “but I will look at it.”
He added, in other commentary: “We were right there. It was a one-shot game. We had a goal disallowed …”