MINSK, Belarus - Waved-off goals are suddenly all the rage at the world hockey championship, and it's leaving players and coaches wondering what's going on.
Latvia had a goal disallowed for apparent goaltender interference Monday night against host Belarus, leading coach Ted Nolan to wonder if the referee "wanted to go to the bar afterwards" rather than use video review. Belarus clinched a spot in the quarter-final, while Latvia was left to stew over at least one point being "stolen" from them, according to Nolan.
Team Canada had its own bizarre disallowed-goal incident Tuesday against Norway, when, like Nolan, coach Dave Tippett got no explanation for why Kevin Bieksa's power-play blast didn't count. Just like with Gints Mejia against Belarus, Jonathan Huberdeau made no contact with the goaltender—and even kept his whole body and skates out of the crease.
"If somebody could explain that rule to me, why that's not a goal, I would like to listen to it because it's frustrating to see," Tippett said after Canada came back to win 3-2. "I watched the one on TV last night that was no goal in the Belarus-Latvia game, too. We're going to have to get some clarification on what they're looking for or what they're looking at."
On its website, the International Ice Hockey Federation used the Belarus-Latvia game as a chance to explain its rules on disallowing goals. Unlike the NHL, which allows goals as long as the goaltender isn't interfered with, the IIHF calls them off if an attacking player—or just his stick—is in the crease, or if a player obstructs the goalie's vision while in the crease.
Just the blade of Huberdeau's stick was in the blue paint when Bieksa scored, while Mejia's skate was, negating what would have been the game-tying goal for Latvia in the final minute.
James Reimer supports any rule that keeps goaltenders from getting interfered with, but even he doesn't know how officials are legislating that in this tournament.
"I know that's happened a few times: we've been bumped and the puck goes in that didn't get called and now the goalie's not interfered with at all and it's getting called," Reimer said. "I think there's just a little bit of confusion among the players right now. We're not quite sure what the rule is or what's getting called."
The initial play that Reimer referred to happened May 17 when a Denmark goal was allowed to stand despite Czech goaltender Alexander Salak being run into. The Czech Republic was none too happy about that, and according to reports went to the IIHF to complain.
At that point, crease violations were in the spotlight. Conspiracy theorists could point to the fact that the referee who blew off Latvia's goal Monday night was Antonin Jerabek, from the Czech Republic.
Steaming mad, Nolan said Jerabek might be the most popular man in Belarus after his call favoured the host team.
"They might even name a street after him," Nolan said.
In his pointed comments, Nolan complained that officials did not have respect for the importance of the moment and the tournament by declining to use video review.
Relieved that Tuesday's call did not cost Canada, Bieksa said he and his teammates know things are being called tight around the crease.
"Moving forward you just have to be extra careful," he said.
Still, Tippett doesn't want his players to avoid that area.
"You have to be careful here because in the blue paint they'll call if you if you're in there too long, so we've told our players that, we've told them they can't get engaged with the goalie," he said. "But we've got to get around the net to score goals. That's how goals are scored these days."
Lately, that's how goals have been disallowed, too.
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