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The champagne must taste a little sour, Lenny.
Referee Ben (as in Bennie and Clyde) Albert stole B.C. Coach Len Ceglarski's record-setting 556th victory for him and handed it to him on a bronze Hockey East platter.
While Ceglarski can draw a little consolation-game consolation from the fact that the victory came over long-time rival Harvard, he can't be too happy about the way Albert brought it home for him.
After the game, after the tide of reporters had ebbed away, Ceglarski leaned over to Harvard Coach Bill Cleary and muttered a brief "I'm sorry."
He knew victory number 556 should have been tie number 27.
Ceglarski could not have been apologizing for the brilliant play of his own team, which matched Harvard step for step the whole way.
He had to apologize, however, for the conduct of his league's official. Albert turned a brilliant athletic contest, a jewel in a great rivalry, into a farce. He ignored the laws of physics and caved in to the cries of a mob of screaming Eagle fans jammed into the packed Garden.
Albert's striped Hockey East referee's jersey might as well have belonged to a convict. He stole a great game from the fans, from Harvard--and from B.C.
Ken Hodges' third goal was not scored in regulation play. Time had demonstrably elapsed.
The red light that signals a goal and the green light that signals a stoppage of play are connected on a single circuit. The system guarantees that the goal judge cannot light the lamp after time has expired.
And the red lights went on only 12 times last night--six for Harvard, six for B.C.
There was no 13th goal.
Last night, the Garden clock ticked off the final second, the green light went on, the puck off the stick of Hodges went in the Crimson net, and the goal judge flipped the switch to light the red lamp, but the little bulb never shone--its green partner was already blazing brightly.
The goal judge confirmed that. But Albert never checked with him. After raising his arm to signal that the puck had gone in the net, Albert--caught back at center ice on the shot--got caught up in a flurry of events. B.C. players snowballed into a large pile in the Crimson zone.
Albert tried to consult with his linesmen for reasons that are mysterious. Harvard goalie Dickie McEvoy, who had started out of his crease to greet his teammates as Hodges shot went in, chased Albert around the ice until Cleary yanked him away.
His goalie safely restrained, Cleary took up the argument himself, along with several Crimson skaters huddled around the official.
After talking to the linesmen, Albert confirmed the goal--a move that defied the green lights at either end, the scoreboard which read 0:00, the goal judge whom he never consulted, the laws of physics, and all the hard work of Ben Franklin, Thomas Alva Edison and a lot of other people with more brains than one Mr. Ben Albert.
Did Albert see Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer flutter down and perch behind the Crimson net?
After the game, the Hockey East supervisor of officials said that it was a judgement call by the referee.
Harvard players had a different opinion.
"The referees didn't have the guts to make the call," Crimson defenseman Jerry Pawloski said. "They couldn't go against the crowd [Albert] is a bad official; he couldn't make his own call."
Hockey referees have to rely on their judgment almost all the time. You can question any number of decisions that they make.
The system of goal lights, however, is above question.
"You can't look at the clock and the net at the same time," Crimson Captain Pete Chiarelli said.
"Once the green light goes on, it's no goal," Cleary, a former referee, a member of the NCAA Rules Committee and the author of the NCAA rulebook said a hundred times after the game last night.
"As far as I'm concerned we did not lose," he added.
"I hate losing, but I can live with it when the other team wins fairly," Tim Barakett said.
The Eagles did nothing wrong last night. They skated a great game. So did the Crimson.
A win for fourth-ranked B.C. Another thrilling--if ugly--chapter in the teams' 70-year rivalry for the record books.
A brutal mistake by an ignorant, or cowardly, official.
For Harvard and its fans, only the sad chorus of the wronged:
"We wuz robbed."
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