If you recognize the image to the left, you'll recognize that as a celebratory embrace by the Norfolk Admirals as they took Game Three by a 1-0 score in overtime. Although, if you had watched the game, you know that the Admirals literally got away with a victory they didn't truly earn. Sure, they battled into overtime and held the Toronto Marlies scoreless, but the Marlies looked inspired as they became the first Toronto-based pro hockey team to play in the month of June. It's just too bad that the on-ice officials weren't as inspired to watch the game as I was.
I'll admit that I got hooked on AHL hockey when the Manitoba Moose were my home team. I love seeing the younger player ascend up the ranks while veteran players show the new kids the ropes and how to be a professional hockey player. The AHL is also a training ground for officials as the vast majority of NHL officials have worked in the AHL before being hired by the NHL. In saying this, it shocks me that such a debacle of officiating could happen on the game-winning goal in Game Three. I'm usually the first person to defend an official due to the pressure of the job, but I can't defend the efforts of the four men in tonight's game.
Here's the video of the goal. The goal itself is not the problem, but keep your eye on the Norfolk players, particularly Brandon Segal, when Mike Kostka's dump-in crosses the blue line and hits a stanchion.
In this image, you can clearly see Brandon Segal still attempting to tag-up when Mike Kostka is being pressured by a Marlie. He decides that it's a good time to get rid of the puck, especially since he's the last man back, and he fires it in from center ice to negate the icing call while allowing his team to regroup.
In this image, you can clearly see the referee in the zone, the players at the blue line turning, and the defenceman on the right making the turn as the puck is dumped in by Kostka. Again, Segal is clearly offside in this image, but the play may continue due to the tag-up rule being in effect. The only thing that can't be done while offside, according to the rules, is scoring a goal because the offensive team is still offside. Or so I thought.
Two NHL referees - Jean Hebert and Marcus Vinnerborg - allowed the goal to stand off the ricochet because NONE of the four on-ice officials caught Segal offside. I can understand the linesman negating the icing not really watching for the offside because he's at center ice. But the linesman covering the blue line would be watching for offsides AND he's standing on the right side of the ice while the puck goes into the left corner! In other words, he can see the entire play developing in front of him, and he apparently missed Segal altogether as well! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!?
According to the AHL Rulebook, Rule 83.4 on page 177 states,
"If the puck is shot on goal during a delayed offside, the play shall be allowed to continue under the normal clearing-the-zone rules. Should the puck, as a result of this shot, enter the defending team’s goal, either directly or off the goalkeeper, a player or an official on the ice, the goal shall be disallowed as the original shot was off-side. The fact that the attacking team may have cleared the zone prior to the puck entering the goal has no bearing on this ruling. The face-off will be conducted at the face-off spot in the zone closest to the point of origin of the shot that gives the offending team the least amount of territorial advantage.Pretty clearly stated, right? "The only way an attacking team can score a goal on a delayed offside situation is if the defending team shoots or puts the puck into their own net without action or contact by the offending team" - that pretty sums up why the Admirals' goal should have been waved off immediately by the two NHL referees. Instead, Norfolk has a commanding 3-0 lead in the series and the AHL has egg on its face.
The only way an attacking team can score a goal on a delayed offside situation is if the defending team shoots or puts the puck into their own net without action or contact by the offending team."
And Ben Scrivens isn't getting off easy on this one either. All he had to do was keep an eye on the puck, and there may have been a different outcome in this game. The missed offside wouldn't have been a factor, but Scrivens set himself up behind the net expecting the puck to ricochet behind the net instead of into the net. If there's one thing that the playoffs prove, ALWAYS EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!
Honestly, though, when such an error of this magnitude is made, you have to wonder what the officials were watching on the ice. I know I have been caught up in a play and may have missed a call or two in my time as an official in a number of sports, but I'm always aware of what's happening when the stakes are high. If the players are giving it their best, the officials should be doing the same. Tonight, I'm afraid to say the officials did not give their best.
Toronto still needs to find a way to beat Dustin Tokarski, but this game may have completely taken the wind out of their sails altogether. Here's hoping the Marlies can fight to play another day with a win in Game Four.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!