AHL admits Marlies got shafted but game result stands
Lance Hornby, QMI Agency
TORONTO - A formal protest to the AHL, public flogging of referees and even a police round-up of Virginian tourists wouldn’t change the bizarre outcome of Game 3 in the Calder Cup final.
That Thursday’s 1-0 overtime winner turned out to be illegal as well as illogical, but still means the Toronto Marlies are down 3-0 to the Norfolk Admirals and facing elimination Saturday at 3 p.m. And that’s where their energy should be directed, according to coach Dallas Eakins, who took the high road Friday morning in a magnanimous tweet and general manager David Nonis, who dismissed the idea of filing a protest to the league.
“As much as you’d like some satisfaction, it’s not going to be there,” Nonis said. “The by-laws are clear, the game is officially over and we are part of the group who created the by-laws.
“The more we keep talking about (Game 3), the less chance we have to win Game 4.”
Soon after Eakins tweeted that officials in the AHL are there to learn as much as players and that the Marlies we’re “moving on” from the controversy, league president Dave Andrews admitted the referees should not have allowed Mike Kostka’s winner.
“The correct application of AHL Rule 83.4 would have negated the Norfolk goal due to a delayed offside call,” Andrews said.
“As AHL by-laws do not allow for any change to the final result of a game based on an incorrect rule interpretation, the result of the game stands.”
There was irrefutable video evidence that Norfolk’s Brandon Segal was inside the Marlies’ blue line when a harmless-looking dump play by Kostka hit a stanchion deep in the zone and somehow curled into an empty net. At first the gray area was whether Segal escaped the zone before the puck crossed the goal line or if it had struck a referee, which a splinter group of conspiracy theorists were pushing.
Neither Eakins, goalie Ben Scrivens, forward Mike Zigomanis or Norfolk coach Jon Cooper questioned the goal’s validity in the post-game press conference. The sold-out Ricoh Coliseum was still in collective shock at how the low-profile Kostka had won the game after 52 combined shots on Scrivens and Norfolk’s Dustin Kotarski.
“There was a little bit of murmur about it while we were walking off the ice,” Toronto defenceman Matt Lashoff said. “When we got back into the locker room everyone kind of thought about it and said: ‘Yeah, it was definitely a call that was missed.’
“Our initial reaction was: ‘Hey, let’s go run back out there and tell them.’ But they can’t obviously change that call. It’s one of those things that makes you want to rip your skin off and go knock some people out at the time. But you have to be able to keep your emotions in check because we have a game to play (Saturday).”
Eakins was still trying to get his head around how Kostka scored in the first place.
“The craziest, craziest of plays,” he said. “I know it’s about it being offside, but the puck gets dumped in and bascally goes off the last stantion (before the icing line), at an impossible angle and ends up in our net. I could take 10 pucks down there and try to get them in the net along the ice and I might (miss) nine of them. So many confusing things were happening in a league final in overtime, I think it caught the fans, the referees, both teams and everybody by surprise.
“I know for the four guys officiating that game last night, it wasn’t a malicious thing at all. I have made plenty of mistakes behind that bench in my three years here, I have players on a night-to-night basis make plenty of mistakes and I think we all forget sometimes that these refs are developing as well. When you have to face that adversity, you’re better for it.”
The zebras in question aren’t excatly green. Marcus Vinnerborg is a Swedish pioneer in the early stages of an NHL career and Jean Hebert spent some time up there, too. Five hand-picked referees in all are alternating in the Calder Cup, but it looks like Vinnerborg and Hebert won’t be officiating any more games after this incident.
“I can guarantee you that for those four and the backup guys who were in attendance, that play will never, ever happen again in their careers,” Eakins said. “I can yell and scream, but what good is it going to do? In the end, I don’t want to be in overtime in a 0-0 game. We had chances to close it out (six power plays, one in overtime.) It’s on us. We have to score to win the game, we take responsibility.”
The Marlies need to win both of this weekend’s games to take the series back to Norfolk. But no AHL team has recovered from a 3-0 deficit in the final in 21 tries going back to 1944.