Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Smell Test

A championship is supposed to be determined by the efforts and performances of the teams involved. So why is it that 2 of the games of the Western Hockey League finals have had the outcome directly affected by the performance by the officials?

For the 2nd time in the WHL Finals, a referee's call had direct bearing on who won and who lost. The Kootenay Ice earned a 5-4 win in overtime over the Portland Winterhawks thanks to a power play goal scored by Matt Fraser at 13:08.

The Ice now have a commanding 3-1 series lead but if you are a Portland Winterhawk fan you are going to say that this lead is on the tainted side. What was one of the most exciting games in the WHL playoffs was ruined by a call that at best could be termed as "weak:"

Sven Bartschi was called for roughing at 11:30, a call that Portland actually thought was going to go against the Ice. It was not and Matt Fraser proved his knee was all better when he scored his winner.

Here from Jeff Bromley's "Ice Chips"

The Turning Point – Six minutes into the overtime, after killing Ty Rattie’s clearing pass into the stands just minutes prior, Sven Bartschi was assessed a roughing penalty. It was a strange, and bad, call for something that had gone on all night. Kootenay’s ailing power play finally clicked for the first time in both home games and now the Ice have a chance to win it all.

The Quote –Portland head coach Mike Johnston didn’t mince words about the call in overtime. “It was a bad call,” Johnston said. “That’s my thoughts on it. I watched the video just to make sure. I thought (Kootenay) were getting the penalty. We were yelling at Mac for our goaltender to the bench. We thought we had the power play because he (King) interference with Bartschi coming around the net. Bartschi tried to jump out of the way of the hit. I’m not sure how a roughing call was called there but certainly I was surprised that an overtime call would go like that.”
Portland Assistant Coach Travis Green

"We're obviously disappointed," said Winterhawks assistant coach Travis Green. "Our guys battled back from two two-goal leads. (The referees) let a lot of stuff go this whole game and all of a sudden they tighten things up in overtime. I really don't understand that and it’s disappointing for our guys to battle back and have the game end like that."

What a truly disappointing ending to a great game that was entertaining from start until the terrible ending. Kootenay had jumped all over Portland right from the opening face off needing just 19 seconds to score the game's first goal when Jesse Ismond beat Portland goalie Mac Carruth.

It did not get much better for the Winterhawks as they were beaten for a 2nd goal at 7:46 of the first period when Cody Eakin scored his 10th of the playoffs. The first period could not end soon enough for the Winterhawks.

In the 2nd period Ryan Johansen got Portland back into the game when he converted a Nino Niederreiter pass for his 12th goal of the playoffs just 41 seconds into the period. Portland had new life but Kootenay Ice goalie Nathan Lieuwen kept them at bay until Troy Rutkowski got a gift goal as his slap shot from outside the blueline was deflected by one of the Ice and went in from about 100 feet.

That tied the score at 2-2 at 14:19 and Portland appeared to be starting to take momentum until the Ice struck again on Jesse Ismond's 2nd goal of the game at 18:11 for a 3-2 lead. The Ice took that lead into the intermission and the goal appeared to take a lot out of the Winterhawks.

Toss in Nathan Lieuwen's performance (win or lose he is playoff MVP) and Portland was heading to defeat. In the 3rd period the Ice made it a 2 goal lead when Cody Eakin scored his 2nd goal of the game at 12:30.

Portland missed out on one power play chance but 1 second after Portland had killed off a penalty, Ryan Johansen scored his 2nd goal of the game to bring the Winterhawks to within 1 at 4-3.

Portland went on the attack trying to get the tying goal and Lieuwen was doing a great job keeping them at bay. It looked as if Portland was going to come 1 goal short as in the final minute they caught a break.

With just 17 seconds remaining in regulation Ty Rattie found the puck on his stick and lifted it past Lieuwen to tie the game at 4-4. It was Rattie's 9th goal of the playoffs setting up an overtime finish for the 3rd time in this finals.

In the overtime it was Portland's goalie Mac Carruth who was the better goalie as he stopped shot after shot. Ty Rattie almost went from hero to goat when his clearing attempt left the ice causing the automatic "delay of game" penalty at 8:42.

Thanks to Carruth the Winterhawks were able to kill off the Ice power play and the stage was set for the terrible finish.

Now Portland has to try to win 3 straight to still win the WHL championship starting with Game 5 on Friday. No offense to our friends up in Portland but pleading for the fans to show up is not going to anything more than intimidate the on-ice officials as seen in Game 2.


Portland's Brad Ross had the length of his suspension set at 2 games for what happened in Game 2 with Matt Fraser. Any doubt that his reputation led to this was removed when Ross was called a repeat offender.

We will still say that this was not a penalty and no way deserving of any suspension. There is no word from the Vatican as to Fraser's miraculous recovery will earn him sainthood.

We hate to harp on the officials but if Brayden McNabb was not called for diving, then Canada has themselves a sure medal winner in the 2012 Olympics. McNabbb drops to the ice right in front of the refs, instead of calling him for "unsportsmanlike conduct," they just yell at him to get up.

If it is diving then call it not slap him on the wrist and send him back to his bench.

Ryan Johansen took over as the leading playoff scorer with a 13-15-28 stat.

Finally we get accused at times for being Nino Niederreiter's cheerleader but we have a message for Nino; you do not help the Winterhawks when you are sitting in the penalty box. Turn the other cheek and skate away because if I am able to take you off the ice for 2 minutes then I will.

Niederreiter has just 2 goals in his last 11 games and Spokane showed how to keep him off the scoreboard. They kept hitting him, annoying him and trying to get under his skin (kind of like Sean Avery and Marty Broadeur).

The Ice have kept it up and it is working as Nino in this series is just 1-2-3. Sorry Nino but while it is very hard to let someone get away with a cheap shot the Winterhawks need you on the ice not the penalty box.

Despite their penalties, Ty Rattie (9-13-22) and Sven Bartschi (10-16-26) are going to make a lot of people tear up their mock drafts. Right now Bartschi belongs in the Top Ten and Rattie the early teens.

No comments: