I should have known at the beginning of the game it was going to be one of those nights. As Jacob Micflikier was skating to the bench after one of his first shifts, Hershey Bears number 22, Francois Bouchard, blatantly speared Micflikier in the chest near the Checkers bench. An official was less than 10 feet away, and watched it happen. Micflikier pointed at himself, questioning the official, and the official’s only response was to nod, acknowledging that he saw what happened, and then skate off.
In the third period, after being highsticked across his face (his visor saved him, for sure) and that play being ignored, it took Zach Boychuck getting highsticked a second time and bleeding all over center ice, with only a minute or so to play, for an official to actually make a call. Over and over again, stuff was ignored. Hershey has a bad reputation for being a league/officials favorite, and last night confirmed that fact. The biggest thing that I can not, and may not ever get over, was the first goal that was awarded in the first period.
The Goal that should NOT have been
So, I scoured the AHL rulebook after the game. For long time, looking for something, ANYTHING, to try and explain how the heck the first “goal” tonight was considered legal. You see, from where I was sitting, which was in the third row very near Mike Murphy’s net, I very clearly saw the puck become lodged in the netting on the top of the net, and a Hershey player flipped it out of the net (ABOVE the crossbar, obviously) where it landed on top of Murphy’s head and fell behind the goal line.
At first, I wondered why the play didn’t just get a whistle to blow the puck dead, but after further investigation of the AHL rule book, apparently a puck has to be frozen in the in the net for three seconds before an official can blow it dead. I do not know how long it was frozen, so maybe the officials are slow counters (or just slow) and didn’t get to one…two…THREE before the Hershey player flipped it out. Which leads me to the second potential rule violation.
According to AHL Rule 80.4 (In section 10, Game Flow, found on page 166 of my handy rulebook):
When an attacking player causes the puck to enter the opponent’s goal by contacting the puck above the height of the crossbar, either directly or deflected off any player or official, the goal shall not be allowed. The determining factor is where the puck makes contact with the stick.
So, the only way that the puck could have gotten out of the net was with a high stick, since the puck was stuck in the net ABOVE the crossbar, and it was then deflected off of another player (Murphy) before crossing the goal line, but this rule clearly states THE GOAL SHALL NOT BE ALLOWED, and yet it was.
The first period wend downhill from there. Murphy was scored on a second time from a really sharp, nearly unstoppable angle, he was crashed into multiple times by Hershey players, and ended up stuck under his own net when it came off it’s pegs and crashed on top of him. After being out of the lineup for almost a month to the day, it was a rocky beginning. Despite the tough first period though, and non-calls, the entire team rallied and played an amazing remaining 40 minutes of hockey. They played hard, and came so close to tying up the game multiple times, but it just wasn’t enough. They were fighting a losing battle with the officials.
Here are a few quick thoughts, observations from the game thanks to note taking at the bar afterwards with a big group of friends:
- Charlotte has the BEST fans. Period. It was SO GREAT to see everyone rally together so passionately about our team. Everyone was into the game, cheering and on their feet over and over again. It was playoff hockey at its best. (Short of a win, of course!)
- I totally understand that the sponsorship stuff is necessary to run a pro sports team (I did spend three years working with sponsorship and marketing for a NASCAR Sports marketing agency, afterall!), but it was SO NICE not to have the flow of the game interrupted by annoying commercial breaks… chicken eating, electric slide, etc. It was also nice to just have Wilson rallying the crowd, etc., and not running around the arena getting all of the commercials in.
- Uggh. We had to see the Checkmates dance twice. I use the term “dance” loosely. Can’t they just be cheerleaders and fan motivators, and not do those stripper dances?
- Every member of top brass from the Carolina Hurricanes was at the game last night. The faces I recognized included Jim Rutherford, Jason Karmanos, Brian Tatum, Rod Brind’Amour, Glen Wesley, Tom Barrasso, Tom Rowe, Ron Francis and Paul Maurice. Pretty great turnout from the big guys in Raleigh! I hope they were impressed with what they saw, because I know I was.
- Mike Murphy had a fantastic game despite the loss. I know I keep saying that, but the scoreboard does not tell the whole story of the game. He made some amazing saves, and was beaten up quite a bit by Hershey players, and he kept coming back.
- While I think Murphy was awesome, I would wouldn’t be surprised if Justin Pogge gets the start tonight, since it’s a back-to-back situation, and we have no definitive starting goaltender.
- We had seven scratches last night. I love that the Checkers have our own crew of black aces! I love that Bobby Goepfert is so much fun, even when he’s not playing. He was dancing in the press box, and even throwing chuck a pucks.
- In the best hair of the scratches department, newcomer Justin Faulk gets the award for best flow. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Jared Staal, who’s ginger mane keeps getting bigger and bigger.
- I wonder what Jared is doing with his phone during games. Is he texting his big brother(s)? Maybe BBMing with Eric, or texting Tripp Tracey? Maybe he was scheduling a hair appointment… because goodness knows he needs one!
- Casey Borer had a great game and really bounced back from a bad game on Sunday. Maybe it was because his parents were at the game… I only know this because he took them to Brixx afterwards, where I was enjoying their Tuesday night beer special with Fitzy’s Posse and my own crew of fan-friends.