Chicken vs. Egg

The emphasis that has been placed this season cracking down on obstruction and holding away from the play has given rise to some interesting games.

On Tuesday evening there was one of those interesting games — Rensselaer at Northeastern.

When you look inside the 7-4 victory by Rensselaer, there arises a few questions for which I do not think there is an answer.

The game was close, which makes it interesting from a fan perspective. Northeastern had eight penalties for 16 minutes, as did Rensselaer. Both teams had seven power-play opportunities. Northeastern outshot Rensselaer 33-27. So it was pretty close.

But, here’s the interesting part.

After 40 minutes of play the score was 2-1 in favor of the Engineers. In those 40 minutes of play, the trio of officials, referee Scott Zelkin, and assistant referees Bob Bernard and Jeremy Lovett, called a total of 14 penalties, five for holding, two hooking, two tripping, two roughing, one boarding, one high-sticking and one interference.

All in all, after 40 minutes of play, there were 11 penalties relating to obstruction, impeding, etc…

In the third period, there were two penalties called, both on Northeastern, on a slashing call and one for interference.

In the third period, there were eight goals scored. Two of them were empty-net goals, so six goals were scored in the third period, double what was scored in the first 40 minutes.

This leads to what I call an interesting dilemma or question or what have you.

Was there a reason for the outburst of goals in the third period?

Two reasons, both opposing views can be argued here.

Theory Number One
In the first two periods, 14 penalties called led to no flow, and a result there was not a lot of offense occurring. Therefore when only two penalties were called in the third period, the ice opened up and offense took shape. As a result, the NCAA emphasis backfired, and a “let them play” attitude created more offense, rather than cracking down with all the penalties.

Theory Number Two
In the first two periods, by calling 14 penalties on obstruction, impeding, etc. the two teams learned and as a direct result of calling the penalties, the game opened up, just as the NCAA emphasis had hoped. So the NCAA emphasis worked, teams realized that they couldn’t do those things and because of it, offensive opportunities arose.

Oh boy. Now do you see where I have a dilemma?

It’s the whole chicken and egg theory isn’t it?

Proponents of the emphasis will gather behind theory number two. Those that hate all the penalties will gather behind theory number one.

Which one is right?

You can certainly argue that once Scott Zelkin stopped calling penalties — and I’m not saying he put away the whistle and penalties abounded, I’m just saying that penalties weren’t being called if there were any on the ice — the game opened right up and six goals of the non-empty net variety were scored. So the emphasis is all a load of hooey right? No penalties called, you got the offense that you were looking for. Makes sense to me.

But then again, maybe Zelkin didn’t have to call any penalties because there were none to be called. After all, a few short games into the season, this was Northeastern and Rensselaer’s fourth games of the season, the teams have learned. Both teams knew what Zelkin was cracking down on and didn’t commit an infraction, aside from the two called in the third, and as a result, the offense flowed. Job well done NCAA, the offense has directly opened as a result of cracking down, the teams have adjusted, and we got it done.

So, which theory to believe? Is it situation one or situation two? I guess you debate and debate as much as you want.

I don’t expect that there is an answer to it, but if you take the Rensselaer-Northeastern game as an example, there is no easy answer and both arguments hold weight.

I still don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg.