On Hockey: M. Hockey Victorious in Spite of Poor Officiating

After two achingly close one-goal losses to quality opponents—a 1-0 defeat last weekend at Cornell and a 3-2 loss on Wednesday at Boston College—the Harvard men’s hockey team finally came up with a big win.

And that in spite of the worst officiating I’ve seen in my years following hockey.

That poor officiating began before the first puck had even been dropped; Harvard was called for a violation of game protocol—the first of four protocol penalties to be whistled over the course of 60 minutes—for exiting the locker rooms too late.

NCAA Regulations state the time frame that must be observed before a game in the Rule 8 section on Game Protocol.

At 10:00 prior to the drop of the puck, the home team’s personnel must notify both teams that three minutes remain before they must begin taking the ice. At 8:00, the officials take the ice. At 7:00, the home team skates on, and 10 seconds later the visiting team does the same.

The Crimson was penalized because it exited the locker room—in Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni’s estimation—a mere 10 seconds late.

And that call had Mazzoleni heated.

“I didn’t get my team out from what [referee Matthew Smith] told me at the beginning of the game, and that’s why we got whacked there,” he said.

And Mazzoleni was right to be upset. While Harvard was clearly late coming onto the ice, that particular penalty is rarely called, especially in the specific situation last night: Harvard was the home team, and the referee and his assistants were hired by the ECAC for the Crimson’s contest against a nonconference (Hockey East) opponent. The rarity of the penalty aside, the ‘home’ officials will usually exercise a little discretion before penalizing the home team, especially against a nonconference opponent.

And while Mazzoleni wouldn’t go on the record about the officiating and the game protocol violation, his counterpart across the ice was less hesitant.

“I’m not really supposed to talk about the officiating,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said. “It’s pretty clear it made my decision to jump leagues pretty easy.”

“If I had that type of officiating on a regular basis—I feel for the guys in that league,” he added.

Cahoon knows of what he speaks; while he has been coaching the Minutemen for the past four seasons, Cahoon spent the previous nine years coaching in Princeton, N.J. and he still sports a smart-looking Princeton hockey watch as a reminder.

“Six calls by the linesmen, we had a protocol, we had three calls for too many men on the ice—not against us, in the game—that protocol to start the game…It was an absolute circus,” Cahoon said. “An absolute circus.”

That circus included, most notably, two whistles for icing against the team on the penalty kill—when icing is turned off—numerous non-calls on both sides for fouls near the puck and, as Cahoon mentioned, three penalties for too many men on the ice, only one of which had an actual impact on the play around the puck.

It was a frustrating game to watch, both from the press box and from the bench. And while ECAC rules about commenting on officiating may have held Mazz’s tongue on that subject, the coach was less than shy about his team’s play, the quality win over UMass notwithstanding.