The Michigan Tech Huskies hosted the Northern Michigan Wildcats early Tuesday evening at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. The result was never really in doubt in the third period which starting with a Huskies 3-1 lead. The Huskies finished up dominating shots 49-23 and completed a big 5-1 win but a lot of fans have commented/complained about the events that happened with about 15 minutes left in the game.

With the Michigan Tech leading 3-1 and the Huskies on the rush, Justin Misiak made a beeline to the net and Michael Van Unen slashed Misiak with an upward motion through the legs. All of us at home watching on FloHockey saw the replay and winced. There was much discussion from our vocal fan base and others including the TV6 announcers, that upon review this would be called a major penalty. The two on ice officials reviewed the play, hopped back on the ice and informed everyone that no penalty would be called. Dave Ellis, who was in the booth for TV6, stated that he had spoken to Kevin Langseth, the CCHA Director of Officiating, and that Kevin stated that while it was a missed minor penalty, they did not believe in it being raised to the level of being a major penalty.

I reached out to Kevin Langseth for some clarification and here is what he had to say:

Tim, I remember that your group loves Derek Shepherd and Marco Hunt.  If Derek or Marco would have been on the ice for this game AND they saw the infraction, they would have called either a minor penalty for slashing or a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The placement of the stick is unfortunate (and temporarily painful) for MTU #17, but this does not rise to the point of a major penalty.  We use our experience to differentiate between a minor, a major, and a disqualification penalty.  I draw upon my 30 years of experience when I classify this infraction as a minor penalty.  It does not rise anywhere near an attempt to injure. 

I spoke with Joe post-game and he understood the rationale that I provided to him.  He’s protecting his player, so he still disagreed with me, but he understood the rationale.

If we miss a minor penalty, we cannot go back and use video review to assess the minor.  That is what happened in this instance.

–Kevin Langseth, CCHA Director of Officiating

A lot of people on Discord or in my Twitter mentions kept bringing up spearing, but spearing requires using either end of your stick to stab at someone and since Van Unen used the shaft of the stick, a slashing minor would have been the correct call. Langseth commented on the possibility of spearing too:

Initially, everyone thought that it was an easy spearing penalty (including my friend, Dave Ellis). 

You’ve got the rules book, and you can see that it cannot be called a spear:  he was “cup checked” with the shaft of the stick.  NMU #4 didn’t use the “point of the stick blade” to execute the ‘cup check’.  Ergo, remove spearing from a possible penalty call. 

From Joe’s spot on the bench he couldn’t tell if it was shaft, or point of the stick blade.  It was worth the Coach’s challenge, in my opinion.  Didn’t produce the result that Joe hoped for, but it was worth the risk of burning the timeout. 

–Kevin Langseth, CCHA Director of Officiating

Want to judge for yourself? Check out the FloHockey Replay at around 1:49:43 to see multiple replays while the officials reviewed the play. Below, we’ve included a video where you can see the play in slow motion for yourself (source reddit):

Also included below is the actual language for rules 65.1 slashing and 66.1 spearing. You can read the full rulebook on the CCHA website.

Overall, I agree with the call and see from review of the video that the likely intention of the player was to raise the stick to prevent an easy goal if the pass comes to Misiak. The CCHA admitted that this was a missed minor penalty for slashing but the actions of Van Unen did not include contact with the end of his stick so spearing is not an option. It didn’t raise to the level of a major penalty because there was a good hockey reason for the action of Van Unen but the resulting attempt to raise Misiak’s stick ended up between his legs instead of on his stick. The open comments and discourse with Kevin Langseth is honestly a breathe of fresh air from the WCHA days.

Featured Image courtesy of Michigan Tech Athletics