Good, clean, physical hockey is great. Players, coaches and fans alike all enjoy it. Although this weekend’s series between Boston University and Northeastern University was physical, it certainly wasn’t good or clean.
Whistles were frequently followed by unnecessary shoving matches and wars of words. Both teams appeared to get away from their respective game plans and focus more on revenge a number of times. Players on both sides took blatant penalties, some of which crossed over into being downright dirty, that made spectators just shake their heads in bewilderment. And on top of all that, the officials missed a number of obvious penalties while sending players to the box for some very weak calls.
“I thought both teams took stupid penalties,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “A lot of it has to do with the chirping that goes on and the after-the-whistle stuff and the diving that’s going on that tees everybody off.”
Once again, penalties played a key role in a BU collapse Saturday night. Northeastern scored three straight goals from the 18:50 mark of the second to the 7:30 mark of the third to take a 4-2 lead. Then sophomore forward Alex Chiasson and sophomore defenseman Max Nicastro took a pair of penalties in the final eight minutes that severely hindered the Terriers’ comeback bid.
Failing to hold onto leads and taking costly penalties down the stretch are nothing new for this BU team. They have become bad habits that the team just can’t seem to break.
“It’s one of those things we’ve got to learn from, again,” said senior co-captain Joe Pereira, who was visibly frustrated after the game. “At the end of the day, you can’t make any more mistakes or you go home now. It’s playoff hockey and if we don’t learn from it, we’ll be going home real soon. It’s pretty simple, pretty clear-cut. If you want our season to be over, it’s going to be over real quick.”
Chiasson’s crosschecking penalty with 7:40 left in the game was the epitome of the “stupid penalties” Parker talked about. Chiasson leveled Northeastern’s Steve Silva after the whistle for no apparent reason.
When the right winger got to the penalty box, he was met by a furious Parker, who leaned over into the box and gave Chiasson an earful before returning to his usual post behind the BU bench. Parker didn’t let Chiasson back on the ice for the remainder of the game.
By contrast, Nicastro’s high-sticking penalty 1:14 later was the epitome of the weekend’s questionable officiating. Husky forward Mike McLaughlin tried to hit Nicastro and ended up dropping to the ice like a ton of bricks. It appeared that Nicastro did nothing more than brace himself for the hit, but he was sent to the sin bin for high-sticking.
“Chiasson didn’t play the rest of this game,” Parker said. “He’s already been benched once [two weeks ago] for taking stupid penalties. Nicastro, I thought his penalty was a dive, to tell you the truth. But he’s taken some stupid penalties. He took a stupid penalty last night. That’s what I’m talking about by not beating yourself.
“If I benched everybody that took stupid penalties this weekend for the next game, we wouldn’t have a team, because we took a lot of stupid penalties.”
That penalty by Nicastro in Friday night’s 3-2 win that Parker mentioned came in the third period when the defenseman responded to Northeastern’s Garrett Vermeersch boarding sophomore Ryan Ruikka by basically clotheslining Vermeersch.
That was followed by Randy Guzior making a leaping tackle of Nicastro that resulted in a game misconduct. The whole sequence was one of several instances this weekend when play crossed over from physical to dirty.
Freshman defenseman Adam Clendening also earned a game misconduct Friday night when he hit Northeastern captain Tyler McNeely from behind. On Saturday night, Silva landed a punch on freshman forward Charlie Coyle that probably should’ve gotten him the boot, but the referees missed the play, much to the dismay of Parker and the BU bench.
Saturday night wasn’t without another game misconduct, though. Freshman defenseman Garrett Noonan was sent to the locker room when the refs determined that his elbow caught McNeely in the helmet, resulting in a contact to the head major.
It was Noonan’s third game misconduct of the season. Per NCAA rules, a third misconduct comes with an automatic one-game suspension, meaning Noonan would miss Game 1 against Northeastern this weekend in the Hockey East quarterfinals. Parker, however, said he will appeal the call.
“It’s easily seen on film that there was no contact to the head,” Parker said. “It was an elbow, but he elbowed him in the shoulder. I can see why the ref thought it, maybe, but it was not an elbow to the head. There was no contact to the head whatsoever.”
Incredibly, Silva’s punch and Noonan’s elbow weren’t even the calls that drew the most ire from Parker. That honor goes to what Parker felt was a missed interference call on the Huskies’ third goal Saturday night.
McLaughlin won a faceoff back to Mike Hewkin, who took a few strides to his right before firing a shot past Millan, but Parker said he thought junior forward Kevin Gilroy was clearly interfered with on his way out to Hewkin.
“I was upset because they won the faceoff back and my guy’s going out to get the puck and he got unbelievably interfered with, I thought,” Parker said. “The referee didn’t agree with me. That’s a point of emphasis this year and the last couple years, especially off of faceoffs. The guy’s supposed to be able to go out and go play that pointman. Instead he got picked off, picked off, picked off. The guy went to the right and shot it in the net
“The games were not well-refereed in my opinion, not at all, not even close, either one of them.”