Sunday evening on tour and the destination was the Guildford Spectrum to see the Flames vs Bison game. Finishing up in Slough at 5pm and hitting the road I fired up Waze on my iPhone to give me not so much a route as a traffic assessment. I would never have contemplated M4, M25 on a Sunday evening under normal circumstances but Waze had checked the traffic and told me that was the way to go! Turned out wrong advice by the SatNav and by the time I arrived at the Spectrum I’d already missed the first goal.
Owen Fussey had put the home team ahead within the first minute of the game with a powerplay goal and despite the fact I missed the opening goal it set the tone of the night as powerplays won the Flames the game.
I saw Fussey score his second, and I saw Longstaff score the third for a 3-0 lead at the opening break for the Flames in a period that saw both teams test the opposition netminder 12 times. The Flames had gone 2 for 2 on their powerplay opportunities while they’d also gone 4 for 4 on their penalty kill.
I missed the opening 1.50 of the first period, the remaining 18.10 I didn’t think the difference between the teams would have signified a 3-0 scoreline as I thought the teams were pretty evenly matched other than the returns of the special teams.
The second period saw a fantastic come back from the visitors as the home team were left without an answer. Just as had happened in the first period all the goals scored were scored at the skate hire end meaning by the 40 minute mark six goals were scored at one end while none at the other.
Joe Greener broke the powerplay duck on the night for the Bison with 3-1 at 23.25, and he doubled up at 27.48 back at even strength before Joe Rand scored at 28.13 and the game was level. 3-3 was more goals that I was expecting by the stage of the game but I think level was probably a fair position to be moving forward from.
In the middle frame the Bison outshot their opponents by 16-11 but Gregg Rockman was coming into his own and produced some big saves to keep it down to just 3 goals between 20.00 and 40.00
At 40.00 the game was in the balance, the result was up for grabs. The Flames had been fluid in the first period, the Bison the same in the second period but in the third period the action was less smooth, more stop start and a little bit scrappy.
The penalty count upped in the third period as well and that’s ultimately where the game was won as the Flames capitalised on 2 of their 5 third period powerplay opportunities.
The strangest call of the third period to me was a too many men call on the Flames. With a delayed penalty up against the Bison Gregg Rockman headed to the bench for the extra attacker. When the play was whistled down Flames had six skaters on the ice and actively involved in the play but the netminder hadn’t actually left the ice yet. No penalty call at this point except the original call on Joe Greener. David Longstaff entered into a chat with that the referee, Joe Greener took his seat in the penalty box and everybody moved to the face-off spot to re-start play. Now Rockman is back in his goal, but Longstaff hasn’t left the ice from his previous shift meaning immediately the puck drops this time the Flames blatantly have six skaters plus their netminder and eventually the delay of the game is an unquestionable call.
With 7.41 left to play Lundin scored for 4-3 with the man advantage and Savage did the same for 5-3 at 56.07 with another powerplay goal. Bison called their time-out and pulled the goalie and the gamble appeared to be working as they forced pressure around Rocky in the Flames net. The break out came eventually with the puck heading back towards the blue line the Flames intercepted and Kristoffersson carried the puck down the ice on the right side, accompanied in the middle by McKinney. With Bison defence blocking Kristoffersson’s shot he slid the puck across the McKinney who had the empty net all to himself and 6-3 showed on the board.
Earlier in the game Branislav Kvetan had got a little chippy, happy to mouth off and push and shove some of the younger members of the Bison unit but the captain stepped in and some words from Nicky Chinn sent him away with no further action.
In the final minute with Flames desperate to not concede with the extra attacker on and the Bison pressuring their zone Kvetan managed an elbow, a slash and a high stick all in the same passage of play. Any of the three were probably worthy of being called which could have given a 6 on 4 situation but (rightly) none were called. I heard screams urging Stefan Hogarth to make the call but the referee was with the play, the incidents happened behind the play, the puck was heading away from where the incidents were. With the referee unsighted to the incidents because he was doing what he should be and following the play the correct non call was made as he wouldn’t have seen the incidents.
How many times have we watched a game, seen a blatant offense committed and not called but the immediate retaliation called? How many times has that frustrated us? The problem is that an off the play offense won’t be noticed but the players and fans reaction to it will cause the referee to glance back, having missed the original offense by doing the right thing, he then sees the retaliation and has no option other than to call it.
No referee sets out to do a bad job, they have two eyes that face in the same direction and they call what they see. They can’t call what they don’t see!
Previously the EIHA had started implementing the 4 official system for EPIHL games. It wasn’t perfect as sometimes there would be a standard 3 official system and sometimes the 4 officials but once everyone had got used to 2 referees the system worked well. This eradicated a lot of the complaints where penalty calls were missed off the play as there was always a front referee and a trailing referee. It improved the standard of officiating and it also allowed inexperienced referees progression to the higher league as they got to work alongside experienced EPIHL officials.
This season the 4 man system is dropped, we are back to 3 officials and just occasionally calls will get missed. It’s an inevitability as the referee follows the play. Don’t blame the officials, blame the system!