With just over five minutes to go in the second period, Penn State and Ohio State were locked in a 3-3 tie with the Nittany Lions fighting off a 5-on-4 Buckeye power play.
It was a crucial moment with Penn State having just tied the game shorthanded and now roughly halfway through killing a five-minute major penalty.
As Ohio State entered Penn State’s zone, it appeared that the Buckeyes had been offside but the call never came. The puck eventually found its way to Nittany Lion defenseman Kevin Kerr, sprawled out in front of Penn State’s net. Kerr played the puck with his hand, pushing it toward an Ohio State player.
A few seconds later the Buckeyes scored.
From Penn State’s bench, coach Guy Gadowsky motioned to the referees, and after a short conversation he opted to challenge the goal. Knowing that the Buckeyes had entered the zone illegally, the assumption was that the goal would not count.
But it would stand.
“I don’t want to make comments on referees’ calls because those are opinions, but I will tell you what happened,” Gadowsky said after the game. “We knew it was offside, we also knew that [Kevin] Kerr, in front of the net, pushed the puck with his hand. The rule is that you can challenge as long as there’s not change of possession… So we asked the referee, ‘Is a hand pass is change of possession?’ and he said ‘No.’ We said great, it was offside, [we want to] challenge. So we knew it was offside.. In the end, not only did the goal count, even though it was offside, we lost out timeout. That’s what happened.”
The sequence brings up a few different questions, but largely hinges on the ruling that Penn State possessed the puck after telling Gadowsky a hand pass did not constitute possession.
But, in fact, according to Section 4, Rule 15.1 of the NCAA hockey rulebook, Penn State clearly had possession and the referee’s interpretation was seemingly incorrect.
“The last player to control the puck, other than the goalkeeper, is the last player to be deemed in possession of the puck,” the rule states. “Control of the puck is defined as the act of propelling the puck with the stick, hand or skate.”
“Possession and control is not a rebound off the goalkeeper, an opposing player, the goal or the boards or any incidental contact with the body or equipment of an opposing player. Batting the puck with the hand or kicking the puck is considered to be controlling the puck. Touching the puck (e.g., poke check or deflection) is not considered control of the puck.”
In short, the Ohio State goal may have been the result of an offside play, but Penn State should have been informed correctly about the hand pass rule. If nothing else, Penn State’s possession of the puck should have negated the ability to ask for a review in the first place — a different issue all together.
Why the confusion? StateCollege.com has reached out to the league office for comment and clarification. But until that time, your guess is as good as any.
In the end the goal wasn’t why Penn State lost, but on a night where the Nittany Lions were assessed 10 penalties, another call going against them didn’t help the postgame mood any.