Shyiak: It Hurts the Game
UAA Coach Laments Propensity of Major Penalties
by Nathan Wells/CHN Reporter
Not a game goes by, where players, coaches and, especially, fans complain about officiating to one degree or another. Which makes it quite easy to simply ignore.
But for the second time in the last few weeks, a coach came out and openly questioned the officials with an intensity, length and specificity beyond the norm. It seems, in this final season before things all change in college hockey, everyone is emboldened.
The latest was Alaska-Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak. It's safe to say Alaska-Anchorage hasn’t had the easiest of seasons. The Seawolves have found themselves in close contests with a few of the WCHA’s elite, yet has lost 13 of 20 games. Consequently, UAA is in the conference cellar for the second straight year.
The latest toughie came last weekend in a pair of losses on the road against top-ranked Minnesota. The number of penalties and calls to go against the Seawolves were frustrating enough for head coach Dave Shyiak to speak up.
“You learn to play the game hard. It’s a physical game,” an unprovoked Shyiak told reporters following Alaska-Anchorage’s 7-1 loss to the Gophers on Saturday night. “To me, two of the four calls that they called near the boards were not penalties.
“I just think kids are going down too easily and it hurts the game.”
The Seawolves earned 37 minutes in penalties Saturday, with 29 of them occurring in the final 5 minutes. Senior forward Chris Crowell earned 14 of those alongside Minnesota defenseman Seth Helgeson while Matt Bailey, who scored UAA’s lone goal, received a five-minute major for hitting Gopher forward Tom Serratore in front of the Seawolves bench.
That call didn’t sit well with Shyiak, nor has the number of game misconducts throughout the league, saying “I know what a penalty is and I think everybody does but the number of (five-minute majors); they’re just handing them out. We’re at probably 70 five-and-games right now compared to 50 last year.”
By and large, that's intentional, since referees have been instructed to have a zero tolerance policy towards hits to the heads, and checking from behind. But many coaches believe the pendulum has swung too far.
Bailey was the second Alaska-Anchorage player in two nights to receive a five minute major and game misconduct. On Friday night, UAA forward Tyler Currier was called for checking Zach Budish from behind and Minnesota, who trailed 3-2 before the call, scored two goals in the final 4 minutes to rally for a 4-3 win. While the Seawolves head coach didn’t agree with the major call on Currier at the time either – in fact, one Gopher Friday called it a blessing – Saturday’s contest was the one to really draw his ire.
“That wasn’t a fun game for anyone to watch or be a spectator. (Friday) night was,” said Shyiak. “It wasn’t entertaining because of it. We’re in the box, kids don’t have a chance.”
Shyiak did not go as far as Cornell head coach Mike Schafer, who last week against Denver threatened to not come back to the WCHA due to the officiating. Fittingly, perhaps, one of the officials from that game, Chris Perrault, also officiated Saturday’s game. Shyiak did, however, bring the Cornell coach up while venting his frustrations.
“You had Schafer from Cornell complaining about it last week in Denver and obviously you can see I’m frustrated. It’s just not a fun game when you see it like that.
“I know it’s tough on the officials, they have a tough job,” the Alaska-Anchorage head coach clarified. “They’re paid to trust their better judgment. I just think it’s frustrating to watch when guys are getting hit along the boards and they’re called and everything. It takes away the flow of the game and the entertainment of the game for everybody involved and it’s just not fun."
Shyiak, meanwhile, did credit the Gophers for their play Saturday. But in a long season playing hockey with a mindset where one individual on the Seawolves doesn’t know how to hit a guy without taking a penalty, the team’s head coach made himself clear.
“If they’re going to take hitting out of the game, they should take hitting out of the game.”