A look at the WCHA’s process of deciding on player suspensions

It wasn’t because Jason Zucker lay motionless on the ice for five minutes, because the Denver forward got his chin cut by a Minnesota stick earlier in the game or because of the extent of Zucker’s injury.

“I don’t know the extent of Zucker’s injury and I don’t need to know,” WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said. “That’s not the issue. It’s my job to deal with the action itself.

“You can have very bad injuries happen where there is no penalty committed; it’s a contact sport.”

Kyle Rau, Minnesota’s freshman with an aggressive but not dirty reputation, was suspended for one game last Saturday after he made contact with Zucker’s head in Friday’s game after Zucker dumped in the puck.

The scientific name for suspension is supplementary discipline, and the process for which the discipline is supplemented is as technical as and precise as a scientific method.

McLeod, WCHA head of officials Greg Shepherd and assistant to the commissioner Jeff Sauer are required to review every major penalty whether the offender was ejected from the game.

They compare the incident to past infractions, look at all other issues surrounding the incident and decide whether the call on the ice was appropriate before determining the need for supplemental discipline.

McLeod said he spent hours deliberating over a conference call Friday night regarding Rau’s hit on Zucker.

“We decided in the Zucker-Rau incident, after looking at all the factors involved, that there were enough other circumstances involved,” said McLeod, who didn’t specify said circumstances. “We wrote them down and conversed about them. We talked on the phone until about 2 a.m. Central Time.

“We agreed on a route, we slept on it and made our decision first thing Saturday morning.”

Zucker is scheduled to travel with the Pioneers this week to Wisconsin, where his playing status for the series with the Badgers will be further evaluated.

When you’re hot, you’re hot

The WCHA is home to one of the hottest teams in the land these days and it’s not who you might think.

The Bemidji State Beavers are 11-4-2 in their last 17 games and unbeaten in their last four (3-0-1) after sweeping Colorado College at home last weekend.

“I just think the bottom line is things are going our way,” said BSU coach Tom Serratore. “There’s no formula, we’re just a pretty confident bunch and I think there’s some parts of our game right now that are very solid and that’s allowing us to have success.

“So all we’re trying to do is we’re trying to play hard, we’re trying to play smart, we’re trying to be consistent in our play and then just let the chips fall where they may.”

Some of the credit has to go to senior goaltender Dan Bakala, who has a 6-2-1 record with a 1.89 goals against average and a .937 save percentage in his last seven games. Bakala is firmly entrenched in the starter’s role after the position was somewhat unsettled earlier in the season.

“Danny’s been there before, he’s had a lot of success in the program, he’s been our backstop the last couple of years,” said Serratore. “He’s the guy right now that’s carrying the ball.”

Considering how tight the race for playoff positioning is, the Beavers, in an eighth-place tie with St. Cloud State, have a chance to move quickly up the ladder if they can maintain their pace. But Serratore’s focus, not surprisingly, is solely on the present.

“There’s such a logjam in the WCHA right now and everybody’s jockeying for position,” said Serratore. “The bottom line is you need to win games each and every weekend.

“I don’t think you can look too far ahead because, if you look too far ahead and you lose a couple, there’s going to be a lot of separation in the standings.”

Brown out for Mavs series

The upper body injury Minnesota-Duluth’s J.T. Brown suffered last Saturday will cause him to miss this weekend’s series at Minnesota State, according to the Duluth News Tribune‘s Kevin Pates.

No timetable has been established for the return of Brown, who leads the nation in plus/minus rating (plus-25) and is tied for seventh among the country’s overall scoring leaders.

Power outage

Colorado College is just 3-5-2 since the change of the calendar year and it’s not difficult to see why. Once atop the nation in scoring average, the Tigers, who are winless in three games (0-2-1), have scored just 10 goals — one of them into an empty net — in their past six games.

The CC power play has short circuited as well in recent weeks. Although the Tigers still rank third in the conference and eighth in the nation in power-play proficiency at 22.8 percent (28-for-123), they are a paltry 4-for-31 (12.9 percent) in their last 11 games with the man advantage.

New Fighting Sioux commit comes with Cup-winning pedigree

North Dakota received a verb … er, tweeted commitment from Toronto AAA star Brendan Lemieux this week when he used his Twitter account to notify his followers, who quickly spread the news.

Lemieux is the son of Claude Lemieux, who won four Stanley Cups with three different teams (Canadiens, Devils and Avalanche) and a Conn Smythe Trophy over a 1,215-game NHL career that also included stops in Phoenix, Dallas and San Jose. Claude Lemieux’s 80 Stanley Cup playoff goals rank ninth all-time.

Outdoor games announced

The phenomenon that is the outdoor hockey is continuing to grow.

One week after it was announced the Michigan Tech-hosted Great Lakes Invitational will be played Dec. 28-29, 2012, at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, Nebraska-Omaha announced Tuesday it will host North Dakota Feb. 9, 2013, at TD Ameritrade Park, where the College World Series is played.

A USHL game between the Omaha Lancers and the Lincoln Stars will precede the UNO-UND game at 4 p.m. CST.

Between the dots …

St. Cloud State‘s Travis Novak is expected to return this weekend from a leg injury suffered Jan. 27 while Nick Oliver, out with an upper-body injury, will miss this weekend against Alaska-Anchorage and possibly next week, according to Mick Hatten of the St. Cloud Times. … SCSU forward Drew LeBlanc is wearing full pads in practice with a no-contact jersey without a timetable for his return from a leg fracture. … Jack Connolly directly contributed to all six of Minnesota-Duluth‘s goals last weekend against North Dakota. The two-time All-American senior racked up two goals and four assists to move into second place on the nation’s scoring list, just a single point behind Maine’s Spencer Abbott. …

Michigan Tech, which owns a 10-9-3 record in WCHA play, hasn’t finished at .500 or above since the 1992-93 season, when they were 15-12-5. That was also last season Tech hosted a first-round playoff series. … The Huskies remained undefeated in overtime games with a 3-3 tie against Nebraska-Omaha last Friday and are 3-0-3 in overtimes in 2011-12. That includes a 2-0-1 mark in the extra session at home. …

Wisconsin held St. Cloud State without a power-play chance in its last game on Feb. 4, marking the first time a UW opponent went without a power-play chance since at least the 1998-99 season. … In scoring his 10th goal of the season last Friday, Minnesota‘s Nate Condon became the fifth Gophers player to reach double digits in goal scoring, joining Nick Bjugstad (21), Rau (14), Erik Haula (12) and Jake Hansen (10). … Goaltender Kent Patterson’s next win will make him the first Gophers goalie to reach 20 wins since Kellen Briggs went 21-6-3 in 2005-06.

When North Dakota senior goalie Brad Eidsness came off the bench last Saturday and stopped all 14 shots he faced against Minnesota-Duluth, it marked his 98th career appearance, leaving him two short of becoming only the fifth UND goalie to play in 100 games. … With just three losses in 11 games in the second half, UND has a .702 winning percentage after Christmas during coach Dave Hakstol’s eight years behind the bench. The Sioux have gone 26-5-1 (.828) from February to April over the past three seasons and 77-24-12 (.735) overall in those months during Hakstol’s tenure. …

After holding Michigan Tech scoreless on all eight of its power-play chances last weekend, Nebraska-Omaha has killed off 37 of its last 42 short-handed situations (88.1 percent) to rank second in the WCHA in penalty killing. … With a pair of wins at Alaska-Anchorage last weekend, Minnesota State earned its first WCHA road sweep since taking two from Michigan Tech in Houghton (3-2, 4-2) on Nov. 21-22, 2008, and bumped its record to 7-4 in its last 11 games. …

Alaska-Anchorage kept Minnesota State scoreless on nine power-play attempts, moving to No. 6 in the league standings for penalty kill (81.9 percent). In the last 12 games, UAA has gone 42-for-47 on the penalty kill for 89 percent and hasn’t allowed multiple power-play goals since Dec. 3 against North Dakota. … For the first time this season, UAA outshot its opponent in both games of the series, posting a combined 43-33 edge over the Mavericks. The Seawolves also kept Minnesota State to a season-low 16 shots on net last Saturday.


  1. And yet the WCHA lets Blood (aggressive yes, but very cheap) go unpunished yet again…does someone need to be seriously injured before McLeod & Co. stop turning a blind eye on someone that clearly isn’t being punished severely enough?

    • I don’t know why I’m reading this column, but ok, I will answer to this.  I’ve seen the antics of Blood a few times and his cheap shots make me ill.  I’d rather put up with the likes of Sean Avery.

      • *Shot

        He pulled Kyle Rau out of the handshake line. We all saw it, the vast majority of us disapproved and moved on. Beyond that Ben is a great physical defenseman with some offensive upside. If Blood’s play makes you ill than your problem may just be with hockey in general.

        •  I dont hear anyone commenting on how blood was crushed from behind in game one of the series. Why no complaining that the person that hit him should get a suspension, especially that late in a game? Bunch of hypocrites……..

  2. Mcleod is clueless at best………if that hit deserved a game suspension they should disallow checking all together…..the 5 minute penalty and tossed out of that game was a little over the top, but to boot him for the following night.  Get a clue you loser.

    • The suspension kept Rau out of the game on Saturday, so it’s the refs fault the team lost, right?  The good news is you finally have that excuse you were looking for to explain why you didn’t make the NCAA tournament again this year.  A sweep by the Beavers this weekend will prove that the Gophers are overrated.  

      •  Except that no one is saying that is why the Gophers lost- won’t miss Mcleod, the Beavers, or any of the rest of you hoseheads once we are out of this conference. The larger point is that consistency in discipline would be nice, that’s all.

      • Good comment, but I am going for the Gopher sweep….and I am not blaiming the Gopher loss on Kyle missing the game…..Kyle is a great player and person….the hit was not very serious….can’t help it if the Wild drafted a wuss…the wild has a history of drafting wuss’s.

      • No, the Gophers lost the game because they took some dumb penalties at the end of the game on Saturday,  Your comment is not only irrelevant and pointless, but also stupid.  What is being said is that the suspensions are not handed out in any consistent way.  I could show you a dozen hits this season that were worse and didn’t result in a suspension.  Of course I don’t expect anything consistent from Shepard and Sauer,  nor do I expect you to understand the meaning of the article.

  3. So the WCHA explained why Rau got a suspension on the hit to Zucker but why don’t they explain why Blood was not suspended. Or why Zucker was not suspended for his hit on Nick Dineen. I have seen both hits and if one warranted a suspension so did the other. The inconsistancy of the WCHA is amazing. They protect the players that they want and to hell with the rest.

    • Nobody, I repeat NOBODY, is protecting Ben Blood.  Rau came in 2 full seconds after the puck was gone.  And it wasn’t a rub-out on the boards.  He came in high with malicious intent.  That’s why he was suspended.

      • Dude the on-ice officials didn’t even have their hand in the air for a penalty on the play and didn’t decide to call a penalty until the crowd booed and Gwozdecky whined.  I am not saying that he Rau shouldn’t have been tossed or that is wasn’t a bad hit to head, but the Saturday night suspension is a joke!

  4. If McLeod says that the injury had nothing to do with the suspension let me ask this.  How was this hit any more malicious than the hit Danny Kristo put on Ben Marshall in the Minny-NOdak series in January??  Rau’s hit wasn’t from behind, Kristo’s was. Rau’s hands were up and made contact with the upper body/head of Zucker, Kristo threw a haymaker into the back of Marshall’s head.  Rau left the ice without a fuss, Kristo whined like a baby, tried to break his stick on the pillar in the hallway and then came back out to the bench to cry at the refs a little more.
    I have to believe that the injury had a big point in the suspension, and it should have.  I am ok with the suspension since Zucker was not able to play the next night, an eye for an eye.  What gets me going is the fact that when you look at the checks themselves, Kristo’s had way more injury potential than Rau’s, which is what is used to determine the severity of the penalty (injury POTENTIAL). 
    McLeod and Shepard need to think before they talk or act.  Don’t say that an injury has nothing to do with a suspension.  If that is the case, don’t even look at the outcome of checks from now on, only look at the checks themselves.  If you allow insubordination by players to be tollerrated (Kristo), you are riding a slippery slope.

    • I want the coaches in the NCAA to man up and tell their players:

       “As a player you have a responsibility to yourself, to your team, to your coaching staff and to the fans to play fair, work hard and be responsible  I, as your coach, am here to guide you, mentor you, coach you and lead you.  Now, with that being said, I see you take a run at another player, leave your feet to hit another player, take a head shot at another player or hit another player maliciously from behind, the last two people you will need to worry about are McLeod and Shepard.  You will be answering to me.”

      When is the last time you ever heard a coach come out and say, “I will deal with my player regardless of what punishment the WCHA hands out”?

      The bottom line is kids are getting hurt.  It is fueled by inconsistent and no-calls from the referees.  I think coaches need to really start taking the initiative here and punishing their own players outside of whatever the NCAA hands out.

      If, for some reason, Rau’s hit on Zucker was a no-call by the referee and I was the Gopher coach…I would have pulled Rau myself.  These kids are getting too big, too fast and to strong to take runs at defenseless players.  Regardless if the hit comes from the back, the side or the front.

      **Bows to adoring fans…Steps off soapbox…waves menacingly at nogopher**

  5. Here is the process for McLeod and Shepard to suspend people.  They go out for a nice steak dinner, have a bunch of drinks, go to bed TOGETHER, and wake up the next morning after a passionate night of lovemaking and flip a coin, heads is no suspension, tails is suspension.  

  6. People, people… why all of the fighting…… McLeod/Shepard know this to be a fact. The League protects MN, WI, ND and DU.  The refs (and the League as well when the League reviews) generally give every break possible to the aforementioned teams.  Now when the aforementioned teams play one another then the refs have some angst.  They are not certain which pocket should hold the marble.  This is a good thing for the League.  Sells more tickets! 

    Look at the games the Big 4 play against the also-rans of the WCHA.  The refs do try to even out the discrepency with penalties at the end of the game when the outcome is already determined.  Reveiw the box scores. 

    After the MN ND game on Saturday night there was somethin fishy going on.  What happened upon further reveiw?  Nothing!  What happened after Zucker suckered Dineen? Nothing!  Now, what if something like this was instigated by Tech, CC, BSU, etc. upon one of the Big 4…..  Judgements would be harsh!!! 

  7. After all the crap the WCHA has been getting about not being tough enough on bad hits, I think they were just making a point, and Rau happened to get the short end of the deal.   

  8. watched the UM-DU series… wow is all I have to say about it… can’t believe it, the wcha needs to revamp it’s reffing crew, players are getting hurt.  Not only in that game, I also watched the ND-UMD series and yet another 3 misconducts(ND only had one, just so everyone knows).  Nobody should be pointing fingers, it’s happening all over.  Got to protect the players here.

    •  I have to agree…  What the heck are these WCHA ref’s smoking before ALL their games?  These players are getting hurt and the ref.s have been calling bullcrap games all year!  I know how people talk crap about Hockey East ref.s but what the hell is going on in our organization….   Most of the zibbras will probably follow suit to the NCHA too which really makes me concerned!  Wondering if the so called ref.s have to drive too far or if its the bad tonic on then airplane that does them in for whatever trip they are going to

  9. McLeod and Shepard don’t owe us peons an explanation or the time of day, so the very idea that they need to offer us a glimpse into the decision making process indicates to me that they have taken internal heat from other conference members for the inconsistent manner that they have dispensed discipline.  That these guys “slept” on the decision is laughable.  Were I in McLeod’s position I would be sleepless contemplating a future conference with 4,000 seat arenas and a schedule with 2 Alaska teams, yikes!   I am only aware of 2 suspensions this season for dangerous hits.  Other non-disciplined hits come to mind, but none more blatant than Danny Kristo’s hit from behind on Ben Marshall.  My guess is they they came down hard on Rau because the game was nationally televised on NBCSN and that Denver officials made the case that Zucker was targeted in the game.

  10. Fratten did the same thing to Kevin Wehrs last year, but Fratten didn’t get suspended, because not only did Wehrs get up but he is Kevin Wehrs. McLoed might be fooling himself, but not anybody else. Rau didn’t lay that dirty of a hit. It wasn’t from behind, Zucker was up against the boards already and he doesn’t use his stick. Did Rau deserve to get toss? Absolutely he left his feet and he was late. It was the player, it was the injury stop hiding from it.

  11. Injuries do indeed play a part in the suspensions, and that word came directly to me in an email from Shepherd himself!  Last season UAA’s Gorgam rubbed out a SCSU player during the final seconds of the period.  NO penalty was called.  The player lay on the ice for an extended period.  When the next period started, Gorham was given a 5 minute penalty and the gate.  Why?  Because the refs needed to cover their butts.  Had no injury occured, there would not have been a penalty given. 


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