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NCAA Keeping Officials Busy

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, October 27, 2004

Last month, the NCAA released an open letter to the public concerning hockey officiating. To summarize the letter, the NCAA said that it would be cracking down on obstruction plays and calling more penalties.

October isnít over yet, and the complaints have been loud and boisterous from coaches, players and fans about the number of penalties that have been called.

After witnessing 29 penalty calls in a 4-1 loss to Boston University on Oct. 16, a frustrated Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon vented.

"I know refs have a job to do, and I know theyíve been told what to do, but itís not hockey," said Sneddon, the former Union coach. "It was just all special teams, and to me, thatís not hockey."

After seeing 50 penalties called in the two games he played in the Mutual of Omaha Stampede Oct. 9-10, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute forward Kevin Croxton said it was terrible.

"Itís hard to sit on the bench and even watch the game," Croxton said. "I donít know how the fans feel about. I canít even remember having a five-on-five shift."

The NCAA and several commissioners of the Division I conferences had a conference call Tuesday to discuss the situation. The main message they had is that everyone better get used to it.

"What I would say is be patient," CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos said. "Itís going to take lots of patience and adjustments for everybody. All the coaches, all the players and all the officials are all making adjustments to it. "

"The ultimate goal of this is very simple. We all feel very strongly that it will result in a higher-quality game. Thatís the intent of it. If we have a higher-product, then the fan, as much as anybody, will be the biggest beneficiary."

It is a big change in the philosophy of NCAA hockey and its officials. In the last several years, referees would tend to let the clutching and grabbing go if it didnít affect the play.

But not anymore. The officials have been instructed to call the penalties when a defender holds or hooks a player and obstructs him from getting to the puck.

"Going through center ice the last couple of years, referees would allow guys to get hooked and grabbed if they played through it," Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna said. "Now, weíre telling the referees that the burden should not be on the offensive player to have to play his way through it. In those areas going through center ice, you tell the players youíve got to play defense by getting position on your opponent, not by hooking him, not by holding him and not by grabbing his stick. These are always illegal actions. These are the penalties that have been in the [rule] book for years."

"I have no sympathy for the players that are whining. The illegal actions theyíve gotten away with in the recent past are now being penalized."

Tim Danehy, proprietor of collegehockeystats.com, compared the number of penalty minutes for the first three weeks of this season with last year. The penalty minutes average is up significantly this season at 43.66 per game, compared to 33.07 last year.

The NCAA and the commissioners want better flow to the games. However, it may not lead to an increase in goal production. There were an average of 5.86 goals per game scored last season. In the NCAA championship game, Denver beat Maine, 1-0.

"Offense is down, but this isnít going to bring back offense," Bertagna said. "Hopefully, itíll open up the game a little bit."

Oates induction

RPI announced Tuesday that Friday, Nov. 5, will be Adam Oates Night at Houston Field House.

Oates will be inducted into the RPI Athletic Hall of Fame. Also, Oatesí name and No. 12 will be the first to be unveiled in the schoolís Ring of Honor. The Ring of Honor will hang from the Houston Field House rafters. The ceremony will take place during the second intermission of RPIís game against Clarkson.

"I am honored to be inducted into RPIís Athletic Hall of Fame," Oates said in a statement. "I am looking forward to being back on campus, being at the rink and seeing some familiar faces."

The game will be RPIís second annual Black Friday jersey night. The team will wear black jerseys, which will be auctioned off during the game. Oates will have a black jersey that will be available for auction.

Player honors

RPI junior forward Kirk MacDonald was named ECACHL menís player of the week.

MacDonald had a pair of twogoal games and added an assist in leading the Engineers to victories over Northeastern and Army. He scored the game-winning goals in both contests.

Union sophomore forward Elise Nichols was named ECACHL womenís player of the week.

Nichols set a school record with four goals in the Dutchwomenís 7-1 win Sunday over Sacred Heart. She also scored twice in Saturdayís 7-3 victory over the Pioneers.

Union freshman forward Ashley Kilstein, who had a hat trick in Saturdayís game, was named to the honor roll.

Dreschel has cancer

Clarkson associate head coach Greg Dreschel has been diagnosed with malignant melanoma.

The 38-year-old Dreschel had a cancerous mole removed from the top of his left foot over a week ago at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York. He was behind the bench for the Golden Knightsí exhibition game last Thursday against Western Ontario.

Tests on the mole are expected to be completed in two weeks. Those tests will determine if the cancer has spread.

Local update

Here is a look at how college hockey players from the Capital Region who are playing outside the area did last week.

Boston University freshman forward Pete MacArthur (Clifton Park) had a goal and an assist in the Terriersí 3-2 win Friday over Providence. Mac-Arthur leads the team in scoring with three goals and two assists in four games. MacArthur was named Hockey East rookie of the week Monday.

Air Force sophomore forward Brandon Merkosky (Queensbury) had an assist in the Falconsí 4-1 loss Friday to Colorado College, and then had two goals and an assist in Sundayís 4-0 win over Quinnipiac. Merkosky is tied for the team lead in scoring with two goals and three assists.

Big win

A week after winning at Michigan State, St. Lawrence pulled off another big road victory.

Goalie Mike McKenna made 34 saves, winning a duel with Maine netminder Jimmy Howard and leading the Saints to a 1-0 victory Friday at Alfond Arena.

The Saints ended a seven-game losing streak to the fifth-ranked Black Bears.

"The guys in front of me really put their hearts on the ice, and played unbelievable in keeping everything to the outside," McKenna told the Bangor Daily News. "Guys were laying down and blocking shots. Thereís so much heart on this team right now."

John Zeiler scored the only goal of the game early in the first period. Howard shut the Saints down after that, and finished with 25 saves.

St. Lawrence missed completing the sweep the next night, losing, 4-3. Greg Moore scored his second goal of the game with 38 seconds remaining in the third period to give Maine the split.

Slap shots

Robert Morris made a successful Division I debut Friday, beating Canisius, 3-1. The defensemen scored all the goals for the Colonials. Jeff Gilbert scored twice, and Bill Menozzi had the other. Goalie Christian Boucher made 29 saves. . . .

Colgate lost its first game of the season Saturday, dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to Northeastern. Jon Smyth scored twice for the Raiders (4-1). . . .

ECACHL play gets under way Friday when defending tournament champion Harvard visits Brown. . . .

Minnesota-Duluth is the new No. 1 team in the USCHO.com/ CSTV NCAA poll after last weekís top-ranked team, Boston College, was beaten by Notre Dame, 3-2, Friday.