April 12, 2008 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Commentary: Replay Call Wrong

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

DENVER — It's one of those years where, despite the fun and greatness of another NCAA tournament, we leave having to address the most controversial play of it.

Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson and defenseman Kyle Lawson were both extremely gracious after the game, a 4-1 win by Boston College in the NCAA final. But the play of the game, midway through the third period, a disallowed goal by Lawson, was a huge momentum shift. There's no denying that.

See the video: Watch

Of course Boston College could've won anyway, and let's just say for argument's sake that they would've won anyway. Still, Notre Dame would've been down just 3-2. Instead, moments after the lengthy delay for the replay, BC scored a goal when a puck bounced in off a defender's back.

Again, Jackson was gracious, saying that BC's win had nothing to do with his team's letdown. But perhaps in a more private moment, Jackson would've confessed that it did. If his team just could've gotten through a minute afterwards, it may have been able to muster something late. But already deflated, the last thing it needed was a crazy bounce.

But was the call wrong?

I think it was.

The longer it went on, you knew there was trouble for Notre Dame. The officials explained it as needing to see if the puck hit a stick. Otherwise, they felt pretty early on that Lawson knocked the puck in with a "distinct kicking motion."

I disagree. I've watched it over and over, and I have no idea how you look at that replay and determine that the player kicked the puck in with a distinct motion. And particularly, how do you look at that and determine it conclusively — which is necessary to overrule the on-ice call.

Lawson took a cross-ice feed and tried to corral the puck with his left skate. Then, as he was trying to get his stick down to tap it into what became a wide-open net, he turned his right skate to again try to control the puck. The puck hit off his skate blade, then went rolling towards the net. Lawson tried to tap at it, but whiffed. He also clearly tried to kick it — but it was also clear, at least to me, that Lawson made no kicking motion until after the puck had already deflected off his skate blade and went rolling away.

You don't expect an on-ice official to see that in a split second, but you do expect that, with the benefit of super slo-mo replay, that the video judges would have.

Instead, replay judge Greg Shepherd, who is the WCHA's director of officiating, saw it differently.

It's been a rough year for Shepherd and it just got rougher. Shepherd was forced to apologize for his officials twice this season for botching replay calls. The league sent official letters of apology to St. Cloud State and Wisconsin for separate incidents this season in which a referee bungled the replay. In fact, it was the same referee for both games and he was ultimately suspended.

Will Shepherd have to suspend himself after this?

Hey, I know it's debateable. There were a lot people who watched that replay together in the press area, and everyone saw it differently. So what was clear to me maybe wasn't so clear to everyone else.

But it's still hard to understand, then, how it could've been conclusive.

Que sera sera.

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