Slough Jets played a home and away weekend series to end and start 2011 and 2012 with the Swindon Wildcats. The game at the Link Centre on Friday night was the Jets first since the 18th December and in truth, having been unable to train the night prior to the game was a tough mission to get straight back up to game speed and play the game. Chatting with Steve Moria he pointed out to me that every team that had a break over the Christmas period lost their first game back so maybe the time off isn’t the best way to schedule hockey.
It’s tough to fit a full schedule in when Christmas actually falls on a weekend so I guess somewhere there has to be a break, and with the number of bank holidays it following it mean teams gambling on playing on a public holiday but it becomes a midweek game which for all clubs are traditionally lower gates than weekend fixtures.
Anyway, Jets hosted the second leg of the series playing at the Hangar on New Years’ Day in front of a large home crowd for a New Year’s Day game and the visitors travelled well in their support to. Right from the get go the Jets were the better looking team on the ice. Having seen the camera footage again now this backs up my theory that for the opening part of the game the Jets were the better team and it surprised me to see the Wildcats score first against the run of the play.
With Adam Calder having levelled the game at the end of the opening period the teams started the second period level again and it was a see saw opening with Jets going to 2-1 and then Swindon back to 2-2. What happened next was a nasty incident in the game with Jasolav Cesky slashing Ryan Watt from the bench. A player on the bench is no part of the action and should remain that way but that didn’t stop Cesky from slashing at the Jets forward as he went past the bench with the play down in the Jets defensive zone. The camera recording for Jets TV was, as it should be, following the action itself so missed the initial slash but as Ryan shows his objection to the slash the action comes round that way and the camera is quick to pick up the rest of the action. Play is quickly stopped and some “bonus entertainment” takes place.
Regardless of whether or not the players on the bench should be fighting the footage does however clearly show the difference in reaction to the two Swindon bench officials. Peter Russell, the Level 3 Coach, can be clearly seen holding back Swindon players trying to avoid a ruckus but what then happens is totally unbelievable. Ryan Richards, listed on the official team sheet as a Level 2 Coach, makes his way from one of the bench to the other to grab hold of Aaron Connolly, who had been pushed into the action earlier by players on the ice. He leans over and grabs Connolly’s jersey, pulling it over his head, and pulls him further into the bench to allow his team to continue the pounding. The footage also shows Joe Baird step in and move Richards back and well done to Joe for his intervention. By now the “bonus entertainment” is coming to come to an end.
What follows is a delay while the penalties are assessed by the referee, Anthony Decaux. The camera footage shows that the referee was well placed to see the action and assess the penalties. Rightly so he consults with both linesmen before calling the penalties that are given to the game scorer.
Cesky is rightly ejected for his slash from the bench and all is ok so far. Nicky Watt is rightly penalised for roughing, Ryan Watt and Sam Waller are rightly penalised for roughing but then comes the surprise. Jan Melichar is also penalised for roughing when in fact he did nothing wrong. Even more surprising is that Richards, on the bench is not ejected either for intervening when he shouldn’t have.
As the game continued Slough continued to be the dominant team but with two imports missing, one rightly and one unbelievably, the Wildcats failed to keep themselves in the game and could do little to restrict the Jets in their goal scoring. Darius Pliskauskas netted on the resulting 5 minute powerplay and the period ended a goal in favour to the Jets.
The third period was a dream for the Jets with Alex Symonds serving a penalty Mindy Kieras and Doug Sheppard both scored shorthanded goals to make it 5-2 and take the game away from the Wildcats. The two shorthanded goals in the same penalty were a massive momentum changer. Despite the Jets having played the better hockey for the 40 minutes of the first two periods the game was still up for the taking but the two early third period shorthanded goals, when the Wildcats would have been thinking about equalising on the powerplay. Pliskauskas drove the win home with his second and third at 47.51 and 54.55 making it 7-2.
Given the disappointment of the loss on Friday at the Link Centre it was good to see the quick turnaround from the Jets. Having missed a week due to the Christmas break and also missed a training session Friday proved a tough test but with Friday’s game under their belts and Friday’s skate in the legs the Jets were back at full speed for Sunday and took no prisoners.
After the game I was asked by a few supporters to confirm the penalties called in the second period in the “bonus entertainment” as people believed I had announced them wrong. To confirm, Cesky was 5+game for slashing then Ryan Watt, Sam Waller, Nicky Watt and (wrongly) Jan Melichar were given 2+2+game+5+game for roughing. The penalties are unusual calls as usually a match would be awarded instead of two game penalties but the referee called them as double game calls. This does have a big advantage for the players concerned as although game penalties still carry penalty points which are used to calculate suspensions they do not carry automatic suspensions so it means that no-one by default misses the next game.
As for the refereeing, it’s a different style than we’re used to seeing in Slough. We rarely see Anthony Decaux at the Hangar. He does do a lot of away Jets games but few home games and therefore his style is different to those we’re used to seeing on home ice.
Each referee runs a game slightly differently. They all work to the same rule book and EIHA interpretations however each official uses different game management skills. Some penalise harshly, some communicate with the players, and some use a balance. If home fans see Dave Cloutman skate out as the referee then they’ll know what sort of officiating style they’ll get. The same goes for Matt Thompson, Roman Szcus, Joy Tottman, Nigel Bonniface or any other official we’re used to seeing. Jurijs Solovjovs was a new face as a referee in November/December and on Sunday we got to see Anthony Decaux for the first time in a long time at the Hangar. Consequently his style is something the fans aren’t used to.
I would like to say though in defence of every official that has ever refereed a game. When we watch the game we have the benefit of second opinions and a second pair of eyes. The referee doesn’t have that luxury, he has one pair of front facing eyes and it’s his primary job to watch the play that’s happening. Sometimes incidents happen off the play and it’s frustrating that these don’t get called but the referee simply cannot see everything. What’s usually the case is that the supporters jeer when something happens, a referee glances round to see what’s happening and sees the retaliation. In fairness a referee can only call what he sees so that’s what happens. The Jets TV footage from Sunday’s bench incident illustrates that. Simon, the cameraman, is following the action and misses the slash from the bench but he’s picked up on the following incidents. I saw the slash from my view as the slash was in my line of vision to the active play which proves the problems.
Jets TV is recorded and edited in HD, the highlights are uploaded in HD and can then be seen clearly by anyone who wants to watch them. Again this is an aide that the on-ice officials don’t have. They can’t simply scroll back and watch again to see if they missed something before making a call.
Sometimes mistakes and miscalls will happen but the people making them are human. Players make mistakes, it’s part of human nature and whilst it can be frustrating to see something missed I assure you none of the officials I know have ever stepped on the ice with the intention of doing anything less than a good job.