North Dakota, Yale Suspensions Will Stand

Following discussions between Yale officals, the WCHA and the ECAC, Saturday’s game disqualification penalties to eight players on North Dakota and Yale will stand.

The game DQs — which carry with it an automatic one-game suspension — were levied following a melee that broke out in the second period of North Dakota’s 7-3 win in New Haven. It started after North Dakota players took exception to a perceived dirty hit by Yale star Chris Higgins against North Dakota’s Matt Jones.

According to Rule 4, Section 10 of the NCAA rule book, regarding Supplementary Discipline, the league office was not at liberty to change the ruling. Additional penalties can be awarded after the fact, but penalties may not be taken away. The rule reads:

The proper disciplinary authority may, at the conclusion of the game, and at its discretion, investigate any incident that occurs in connection with any game and may assess additional suspensions for any offense committed before, during or after a game by a player, coach or nonplaying personnel, independent of whether such offense had been penalized by a referee. The proper disciplinary authority may not decrease any penalties assessed before, during or after the game by the on-ice officials.

North Dakota Defenseman Nick Fuher and forwards Kevin Spiewak, Ryan Hale and Rory McMahon; and Yale’s Chris Higgins, Stacey Bauman, Evan Wax and Nick Deschenes were the players involved and will all sit out their team’s next game.

North Dakota coach Dean Blais and Yale coach Tim Taylor both believed that two of their players had not thrown a punch, and should not have been given game disqualifications. The WCHA office — on behalf of North Dakota — and Yale officials, each inquired with the ECAC office about the situation. According to ECAC assistant commissioner Steve Hagwell, both parties understood the NCAA rules, and after brief discussions, accepted the fact that the game disqualifications could not be changed.

Blais remained unconvinced.

“He [ECAC referee Peter Torgerson] said he threw [Spiewak and Fuher] out because they didn’t go back to their benches,” Blais said to the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald. “Well, that’s not how the rule reads. You have to throw a punch to get a fighting penalty. But the [ECAC] looked at the tape of the game, and they stood by the referee’s decision.”

Blais pointed out that the NCAA rule book mandates only a minor penalty for failure to report to the player bench during a fight.

However, the ECAC said it stood by the referee’s decision, not necessarily because of its review of the tape, but because the rules state clearly that no reduction of penalty is even allowed.

The North Dakota players will miss the team’s WCHA opener against St. Cloud State on Friday. Yale’s quartet must sit out its league opener at Cornell on Friday.