Highly Controversial Call After Championship Trophy Presentation Results In Overtime Do-Over in Mankato.
The Minnesota State Mavericks men’s hockey team was ranked #1 in the nation for the large majority of this season and so it was almost a foregone conclusion that they would bring home the CCHA title in last night’s championship game against #3-ranked Bemidji State. However, it was a tougher task than was expected due to a tough Bemidji State team and the CCHA making a stunning goal-reversal call some 40 minutes after the trophy celebration.
After a scoreless first period, the Beavers tallied the first goal of the game when Alex Adams poked a shot past Mavericks goaltender, Dryden McKay. The Mavericks answered just under eight minutes later when Brendan Furry of the Mavericks tied the score at 1-1 when he sniped a shot from the left faceoff circle with 24 seconds left of a power play. At the end of regulation and a good defensive game from both sides, they headed to overtime.
The sellout crowd of over 5,000 fans at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center in downtown Mankato were on their feet as the extra frame began. Much like the rest of the game, both teams quickly found their energy and were ready for an overtime fight until sudden death. That looked to be at 3:02 into overtime as Mavericks Sophomore Forward, Josh Groll dashed to the right of the Bemidji State goalie, Mattias Sholl and tucked the puck just past him into the goal.
Game over!!! Mavericks are CCHA Champions!!! Bring on the hardware!!! Beavers goalie Sholl was named Third Star of the game, McKay was the Second Star and overtime hero, Groll was named First Star of the game. All received small trophies recognizing them for their outstanding efforts throughout the game. Then, came the Mason Cup. CCHA Commissioner, Don Lucia, former Minnesota Gophers Head Coach who led the Gophers to two National Championships, came onto the ice and awarded the inaugural Mason Cup to the CCHA champion Minnesota State. The party was on, everyone drive home safe. Good night.
As a jubilant Mavericks Nation headed for home, or a party somewhere….that I wasn’t invited, again (just saying) and as Beaver fans most likely headed to the nearest bar to find some comfort in a bottle, the ending of the game was being discussed by CCHA leadership and the head coaches from both teams.
The video below is what they were all watching in the depths of the arena after both teams, the referees and the fans left the ice and arena. Heck, even the band kids were boarding the bus. The video shows the puck sliding into the net, to the right, of the goal post. Something only possible if the net was lifted, as the suspicion suggested.
After further review, the CCHA issued an official statement stating that the goal was disallowed and stunningly, play would resume. The arena doors were reopened and whoever heard the news could come back for the remainder of the game. Though I did not return to the game, those who did gave the referees a very loud and energetic shower of boos as they returned to the ice. According to NCAA rule number 82.1, “officials’ duties continue until players have left the ice at the conclusion of the game.”
In what will go down as the strangest conclusion to a game in college hockey history, overtime did indeed resume and after just 2:09 minutes later, MNSU senior defenseman, Jack McNeely fired the official game-winner into the net and, once again, the Mavericks were able to celebrate the conference title.
Now, I can totally understand that it would be a tough way to conclude a season for Bemidji State to lose a game like that. The integrity of the game is of the utmost importance. The players and their play on the ice should determine the outcome of the game. However, there has to be a time at which the results of the game become official and the NCAA clearly states that. Had the challenge from Bemidji State come before the trophy was presented to the winning team, and the Beavers and referees hadn’t already left the ice, I would certainly agree that it was a no-goal and play should resume.
What I myself and a ton of other people on social media could not understand, is how the results of the game, which at that point had been made clear by awarding individual accolades and the Mason Cup, could be reversed more than 40 minutes later? It was an embarrassment, it was shameful and a disgrace to the game.
It is clear that the goal should not have been allowed because the goal was lifted and the puck slid underneath on the right side of the net. I am not doubting that whatsoever. It was not a goal. But… the fact that the off-ice officials had all of that time to review the play and it was only after a scratched Beavers player brought the play to the attention of the Beavers head coach, was the play officially reviewed again. How did they miss that in the first place? What an absolute joke on the part of the officials and the CCHA!!
In the end, the Mavericks prevailed and won the Mason Cup, for the second time that evening. It’s a shame though. It’s a shame because it was a tremendously emotional roller-coaster for the Beavers and they experienced defeat twice in the same overtime period. It was a shame for the Mavericks because, all of a sudden, they had to refocus their attention on the game (again) after hoisting the Mason Cup in celebration with a packed house of fans.
It was a shame for the fans who left, like me, who missed seeing the official end of the game after it was recalled 40 minutes later. Finally, it was a shame for the CCHA who undoubtedly choked in the big game. It was their responsibility to ensure and authenticate the results of the game before handing out the championship trophy, and they failed miserably.
Aside from all of the controversy, the Mavericks dominated this season and their trophy cases are filling up fast. CCHA honors were announced last week and Head Coach, Mike Hastings, who many are thinking will be an NHL coach at this time next year, won the CCHA Head Coach of the Year. Nathan Smith, who played in this year’s Olympics, won Forward of the Year and is a Hobey Baker Finalist. Dryden McKay (35 wins), who is also a Hobey Baker Finalist, won Goaltender of the Year and the CCHA Player of the Year. Lastly, Jack Livingstone won Defenseman of the Year.
It was an unbelievable season. It was an unbelievable ending to the title game and Thursday begins Minnesota State’s quest for the NCAA Championship as it takes on Harvard at 11am CDT. Congratulations and best of luck to all Minnesota hockey teams as they go for the championship!!!!!