The Jan. 18 game between the Yarmouth Mariners and the Summerside Capitals had a strange ending, with both teams celebrating a win in the shootout. The win went to Summerside. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
The president of the Maritime Hockey League (MHL) says there is no doubt that the Yarmouth Mariners were robbed of a win in a Jan. 18 game with the Summerside Capitals.
“At the end of the day Yarmouth was wronged, there is no question,” league president Derryl Smith told the Yarmouth Vanguard in a telephone interview from Fredericton on Wednesday, Jan. 22.
“There was no goal,” he said, referring to the Summerside Capitals’ third shot of a shootout that pinged off the crossbar. The shot was ruled a goal, although by then the Mariners and their fans were already celebrating the win and the three stars of the game had been named. Some players had even left the ice and had to be brought back to the player benches for the shootout to continue.
Summerside went on to win the shootout. The Mariners filed a protest with the league. Smith asked the team to submit a video. The Mariners provided video footage that the team maintained proved that Summerside had not scored in the shootout. (You can view the video on YouTube. At the time of this posting the video had been viewed more than 5,930 times.)
On Jan. 22 Smith sent his ruling to Mariners president Mitch Bonnar, saying the on ice decision of the night stands, meaning Summerside keeps the win and the two points that go with it.
The Mariners have decided to appeal the ruling.
Smith told the Vanguard he had no choice but to make this ruling because the league’s constitution doesn’t leave an opportunity for the league president to overall a referee’s on-ice call. Doing so, he said, would require the league constitution to be re-written. Smith even questioned whether teams would want to see this done, as it could lead to a never-ending situation of teams forever challenging goals – either the ones that were allowed in games, or the ones that weren’t.
Section 702.1 of the league’s constitution states: Protests may only be made in regards to interpretations of rules, by-laws, regulations, rules of competition and constitutional matters, not in regard to the decision of a referee or linesman.
Still, Smith said his ruling about the game was not an easy one.
“It was the toughest one I ever had,” he said, given that it was clear to him that Summerside had not scored and the game should have ended with the Mariners’ win. He said he consulted with three counterparts across the country – one in the NHL, one in the Ontario Hockey League and one in the western league – as he contemplated the Mariners’ position.
“I know the referee made a mistake,” Smith said, but, he repeated, the constitution doesn’t allow him to overturn the referee’s call.
Mitch Bonnar, president of the Mariners, doesn’t buy it. He received Smith’s ruling via an email on Jan. 22, but he thinks the president still has the right to overrule a call, suggesting it’s been done before on suspensions.
Bonnar told the Vanguard he wouldn’t even care if the league had decided to award both teams two points for the game.
Even though mistakes happen in games – sometimes they hurt a team, other times they help a team – Bonnar just doesn’t think it’s fair not to give the Mariners two points when it was clear, at least to the team and the majority of the 1,400 fans in the stands, that Summerside did not score in the initial shootout.
At least on this point, whether there was a goal or not, Bonnar and Smith agree.
“At the end of the day, there was no goal,” Smith acknowledged. But unfortunately, he said, giving both teams two points would have opened up a proverbial can of worms – you did it once before, you should do it again, teams might argue in the future if they disagreed with goal rulings.
With the game night result upheld by the league, Summerside picks up two points for the game. For Summerside the difference of one point doesn't make much of a difference. They sit in fourth place in the Roger Meek Division with 30 points, seven points behind third-place Woodstock Slammers and 10 points ahead of last place Campbellton Tigers. The division-leading Miramichi Timberwolves have 51 points.
But for the Mariners – who only come away from the Jan. 18 game with one point for having the tie in regulation – every point is important, considering that only two points separate the top four teams in the Eastlink Division. The Mariners sit in fourth place with 49 points. In third is the Amherst Ramblers with 49 points (but one more win than the Mariners). In second place the Truro Bearcats have 50 points and in first place the Pictou Weeks Crushers have 51 points. All teams are looking to position themselves for playoffs and home game advantage.
In the end, however, the whole Jan. 18 situation could have been avoided if the Mariners hadn’t let a 4-0 lead slip away from them in the game. Summerside scored three unanswered goals in the second period and tied the game with 34 seconds left in the third. It was a scoreless overtime that led to the shootout.
And that's when things fell offside.
To the fans, and to the Mariners, it appeared the Mariners had won the shootout on a goal by Connor Donaghey. The last of three Summerside shots by Thomas Stavert hit the crossbar.
Or so everyone thought.
The Mariners celebrated. The fans were on their feet. The three stars of the game were named. People starting leaving the Mariners Centre. And players started to skate off the ice.
But even after some players from both teams had left the ice the officials said the shootout wasn't over because Stavert's shot was a goal.
This caught the majority of those inside the Mariners Centre off guard. Even the Summerside Capitals had already tweeted out, "Post" in describing Stavert's shot.
The fans were confused and angry as the shootout resumed. In the sudden-death portion of the shootout it was Summerside – on a goal by Alex Gallant – that won the shootout and got the game win.
Inside the Mariners Centre, fans were either incensed or stood there in disbelief.
Yarmouth Mariners head coach Laurie Barron called the way the game concluded the strangest ending to any hockey game he’s ever coached or been involved in.
“I played four years of junior and I’ve coached for 20-plus years and I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. Still even Barron acknowledged that the Mariners shouldn’t have blown their 4-0 lead.
Meanwhile fans that left the Mariners Centre after watching their Yarmouth team celebrate were later stunned to learn that night, or the next morning, that the other team had won. After all, when they left they were sure the game was over.
Said one fan to this newspaper, "Next time we're not leaving until they clean the ice."
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