ROCHESTER, N.Y. — What should have been a competitive meeting between Eastern and Western teams was marred by a severe case of over-officiating Saturday night.
It started with a protocol penalty against Wisconsin-Eau Claire, assessed for coming out late for warmups. Five bench minors later, all whistled against Eau Claire, left the fans shaking their collective heads. RIT took advantage of the calls, scoring nine power-play goals on the way to a 11-2 victory.
As RIT coach Wayne Wilson walked in to the press box after the game, the first words he said summed up matters pretty well.
“Is that game over?” Wilson said. “I wanted a chair.”
The final insult came midway through the third period. After Eau Claire’s goaltender, Scott Sutton, had suffered through an almost constant RIT power play. Finally, after RIT’s 11th goal, he had seen enough, and ended up with a 10-minute misconduct to send him to the showers early.
The Tigers opened the scoring early in the game, taking up where they left off the previous night. The Tigers skated in to the Blugold zone on a 2-on-1 breakaway, but Sutton saved Mike Tarantino’s shot. However, the Eau Claire defense never collected itself, and Sam Hill slapped home a pass from the point by Ryan Franke for the goal at 5:11.
The endless slew of penalties began soon after, and never abated. RIT took advantage of its second power play almost seven minutes later to build its lead to 2-0. Franke snuck in from the point, and Hill hit him with a pass as he went down the slot. Franke one-timed the puck past Sutton for the goal.
“It was just a sloppy, slow moving, penalty-filled, chippy game,” said Wilson.
Eau Claire battled back in to the game at 14:14. Bryan Chambers intercepted an attempted clearing pass out of the RIT zone. Chambers took a shot straight down the Tiger slot, and Rob Ouimette tipped the puck past netminder George Eliopoulos.
The Blugolds were playing a tight game, marking each RIT player and trying to slow down the Tiger offense. The strategy worked, at least until the officials decided to interpret the rulebook like a first-year Harvard lawyer.
Thirteen penalties were whistled during the second period. RIT converted on four of five power plays during the period, while Eau Claire was unable to convert on any of its four man-up opportunities.
In addition to the four power-play goals, RIT tallied an even-strength goal during one of the brief five-on-five interludes. The Tigers finished the frustrating period with an 8-1 lead.
The third period was more of the same. The penalties continued to blast off the referee’s whistle, and the teams exchanged a few power-play goals. Once again, the majority of penalties were called against the visiting Blugolds, as RIT outscored Eau Claire in the third period 3-1.
“I support the referees,” said Wilson. “But I apologized to [Eau Claire] coach [Jean-Francoise] Laforest after the game. There were better ways to end this game, instead of calling those kinds of penalties.”
Lesson of the night: when the rules committee is represented in the stands writing evaluations, it will invariably lead to the referee trying to impress the boss.