Joe Shawhan had a lot to say to Dirk Hembroff and Michigan Tech fans listening via Mix 93 after the game on Saturday night in Mankato and Monday morning on his weekly radio show, The Joe Shawhan Hour. He always shoots his fans straight and rarely gives the “coach speak” answer. This has generally been good for Michigan Tech fans to get more information than a lot fans of other teams get to hear in terms of how the coach thinks and what’s going on with the program. Sometimes though, Joe goes a little too far, and struggles to stay constructive with his criticism of officials or conference leadership. This was the case both Saturday night and Monday morning. That would explain why only those who were listening live to either chat with Dirk were able to hear exactly what Coach Shawhan had to say. I was one of those who heard the Joe Shawhan Hour live Monday morning, while my cohost on the Chasing MacNaughton Podcast, Dustin Lindstrom, heard Joe’s postgame comments live. Dirk went so far as to cut Joe off on Saturday night and that was probably for the best with how heated he was about the ending of that game. Coach Shawhan, given a chance to cool down Sunday still had many choice words for various people working for the CCHA. I will try here to focus on the grievances related to the events after Michigan Tech pulled within one goal with Tristan Ashbrook’s penalty shot goal with 16:50 remaining in the third period.
The Evolution of Goaltender Interference
We’ll start with what has happened earlier in the year as far as goalie interference calls on Michigan Tech. Back on October 21,2022, Michigan Tech scored a goal seemingly to take a 3-1 lead with 15:38 left in the third period. After review, the goal was overturned and the Huskies went on to lose 5-2. Who knows what would have happened if the goal stood, but it definitely changed the complexion of the game. This is where the confusion for Michigan Tech started for goaltender interference. The goal was overturned on goaltender interference because according to Coach Shawhan, the officials told him Arvid Caderoth didn’t make enough of an effort to not make contact with the goaltender. After watching that video multiple times, it seems like Sholl has plenty of time to recover, he even makes a save before the goal is scored.
After this game, Coach Shawhan reached out the CCHA for clarification and according the league it was the correct call for how the rule was interpreted at the time, largely because according to Joe, the league said any contact with the goalie in the crease that leads to a goal unless the attacking player was pushed and couldn’t avoid the contact would be no goal. Then on December 3, 2022, Michigan Tech hosted Northern Michigan and there was another goal reviewed for goaltender interference. This time it was Northern Michigan’s David Kiefer scoring on Blake Pietila. This one tied the game 8 minutes into the second period but thankfully the Huskies would go on to win 3-1. From Coach Shawhan’s perspective though, it felt like what he had been told after the Oct 21st call, wasn’t being followed here. He reached out to the CCHA to get clarification and was told that after his complaints about the goal against BSU being disallowed, the league had chatted with others around college hockey and agreed that if the contact did not impact the goaltender’s ability to make a save, the goal would stand. An apology was given for not providing that information to the coaches after the decision was made, and according to Shawhan the league did contact all the coaches some time during the week of December 4th to update this information. Obviously, being burned by two different interpretations of the same rule in the same season did not leave Shawhan feeling great about how all of this was handled and set things up to really boil over with the third call in Mankato.
Now we get to the final piece to this goaltender interference puzzle. The final regular season game in the CCHA hosted by Minnesota State to decide who wins the #1 seed in the playoffs and if both teams will be sharing the MacNaughton or if either team can get an outright win to solely be recognized as MacNaughton Cup Champions. Michigan Tech was trailing 2-1 late in the third period and needed just one goal to force overtime, which would guarantee Michigan Tech the #1 seed and at least a share of the Cup. The Huskies had pulled their goaltender and with 1:31 remaining, they appeared to tie the game, but after Tristan Ashbrook had taken a shot and was pushed into goaltender Keenan Rancier (which is legal contact of the goaltender), while Rancier was attempting to stand up, Ashbrook appears to push him to the ice while the puck circulated around the crease and was shot in by Ryland Mosley on the other side of the net. Let’s first focus on the goaltender interference call specifically, before we get into the other concerns relating to the final 16:50 of regulation.
Based on what Shawhan was told by the CCHA after the NMU goal was allowed, he believed the burden for goaltender interference was on whether or not Ashbrook’s contact with Rancier’s back was enough to prevent Rancier from making a save. Joe points out that Rancier’s right pad is wrapped around the far post near Ashbrook and Minnesota State defenseman Jake Livingstone is on his right knee in the crease blocking Rancier from ever sliding over to make the save. Beyond this part of the call, Joe told me over the phone that he spoke to Ashbrook about the play, Ashbrook says he wasn’t cross checking Rancier, he was falling over because he had lost his balance. If you watch the replay below and keep an eye on Rancier’s goalie stick, you’ll notice that while Rancier is trying to recover, it appears that Rancier pushes out Ashbrook’s right skate, leading Ashbrook to lose his balance and fall over onto Rancier. By the letter of the rule, the contact is initiated by Minnesota State which leads to Ashbrook’s push in the back, this contact can’t be goaltender interference because it was initiated by Rancier, and Ashbrook has no way of avoiding the contact as he tries to recover his balance (just like the initial contact on Rancier). You can disagree with Shawhan’s assessment of the play if you want, but I hope after reading this you at least understand his side of things and why it was so frustrating, beyond just a call going against Michigan Tech. As we discussed on the Chasing MacNaughton podcast this week, our friend of the podcast Shane Frederick said regardless of how the review process went, at least the right call was made. From everything I’ve stated above and even from the words of Don Lucia on the podcast, these calls are subjective and not every neutral would agree with that. The CCHA provided the replays to 9 individuals which I assume are other college hockey officials and while seven did say it was not a goal, two did think it should have stood as a goal.
Based on Coach Shawhan’s comments on the Joe Shawhan Hour from Monday and to THG directly after the show, we reached out to the CCHA Director of Officiating, Kevin Langseth, for comment on two items:
What is the guidance given to referees to help them determine if goaltender interference occurred and a goal should be disallowed? I assume you have bullet points or video examples of what is/is not interference?
Is there a more clearly defined definition that will be followed in the coming seasons. If the difficulty is that no two officials will call it the same, what are some steps the league can take to eliminate some more subjectivity?
As of the publication of this article, we have not received any comment. If and when we do we will update this article and let you know.
Other Issues with Saturday’s Regular Season Finale
Coach Shawhan also took some time during the show to describe some questionable behavior from the officials of Saturday Night’s game. At some point after Michigan Tech had got to within 1 goal via Tristan Ashbrook’s penalty shot goal, Captain Arvid Caderoth was speaking to the officials about what he thought were some missed called that would have put Michigan Tech on the power play. One of the officials made a comment about whether or not Caderoth liked the penalty shot call, and Caderoth tried to keep the conversation about what he thought were other missed calls. After Shawhan was informed of this by Caderoth, the coach spoke with one of the officials during the next commercial break, and Shawhan stated that the refs told him they weren’t going to decide this game and were going to swallow their whistles. Obviously this isn’t what you want to hear and it contradicts what Commissioner Lucia had stated on this week’s podcast about never wanting officials to “swallow their whistle” because not calling something can decide the game just as much as making one. If something should be called, its the officials job to call it.This led to additional frustration from Coach Shawhan when it came to the time between the disallowed goal being scored and the review process taking place.
If you watch all 3 clips above, the review process in Mankato is clearly the longest. It takes less than a minute from the time the goal goes in to the time challenge is officially announced by the officials for both reviews in Houghton. The review in Mankato isn’t announced for over 3 minutes, by our count it took 3:10 from goal going in until the officials announced the challenge. The review process itself from announcement of the review to announcement of the goal/no goal is all similar with the play in Mankato actually taking the least amount of time (all between 2:15 and 2:33). Why was Hastings allowed an extra 2 minutes to argue the call before being forced to challenge or move on with the game? The entire time, staff and fans were given plenty of views of the play to help make Hastings’ decision easier. I doubt he wouldn’t have challenged it if given less time to make his decision, but without his timeout he might have considered not challenging the play for fear of losing the challenge and being shorthanded for the next two minutes if he lost. We’ll never know. Coach Shawhan did make it clear on his show that he didn’t feel upset with the result of the game (normal circumstances they were just the better team), more so how the game ended.
In conclusion, the inconsistency of how goaltender interference was called throughout the season in Michigan Tech games and feedback from the league seem to directly contradict how the play was called during the review this Saturday night, for that Coach Shawhan has every right to be frustrated for what feels like an ever changing explanation of why all three calls went against the Huskies who fell just 2 points short of a share of the MacNaughton Cup this season. The process for the review on Saturday night also doesn’t seem to follow the spirit of the rules with Hastings seemingly given more leeway (my personal opinion, not something Coach Shawhan said) than other coaches appear to be given in a similar circumstance. Neither Shawhan, nor Serratore took nearly as long to make their decisions in games earlier this season, nor was there much arguing about expecting the officials to review a play that they are no longer allowed to go to review without a challenge. I really hope the league takes the time to tweak some procedural items like not allowing replays until the puck has dropped and the play can no longer be reviewed, and also can provide answers to our questions above at some point to hopefully provide some clarity on how referees in the CCHA are taught to navigate this difficult call, which like Rob Gilreath said on the podcast, unlike penalties, this call is one of the few that directly results in a goal/no goal decision, literally taking a “point” off the board. If you’d like to hear Commissioner Don Lucia’s full comments on Saturday night and more, you can check out this week’s episode of the Chasing MacNaughton podcast where we spoke with him at length about last Saturday.
Featured Image courtesy of Jeremiah Baumann
Tim is a 2004 graduate of Michigan Tech. He is a co-founder of both Mitch’s Misfits and Tech Hockey Guide. With recent additions to the staff, Tim is again able to focus on his passion, recruiting. He currently works as an environmental engineer and resides in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Area.