Deadlines being what they are around here, I pieced together last night's game story from the St. Thomas Academy/Minnetonka boys' hockey game in literally nine minutes. You can read it here.
I had four different Microsoft Word documents open with scattered bits of game stories in each: one written when I was certain Minnetonka was going to win in regulation, one I pecked out once STA tied the game with 40.2 seconds left in the third period, one for an STA win and one in case of a tie.
Once all the dust (uh, ice shavings?) had cleared after overtime, I got what I needed outside of the Minnetonka locker room, scooted back to my computer and sent the story off to our hard-working copy desk. By the time 10:05 swung around, and I had a chance to regroup the arena was empty except for the cleaning staff and a few late-night warrior open hockey players.
Now that there's some time let's expand a bit, shall we?
In a nutshell, all one needs to know is that Minnetonka won the game with Jared Ridge's goal 2 minutes 15 seconds left in overtime. That's the quick review of what happened. And speaking of reviews ...
Perhaps someday we will have goal judges, a war room and overhead cameras at high school hockey games just like the NHL. But as it stands now, there is no such thing. Not even close. So we have to rely on one referee's view whether or not goals are scored. Last night, St. Thomas Academy wasn't so sure either of Minnetonka's last two goals should have counted.
The first broke a 2-2 tie. Fresh out of the penalty box for an elbowing penalty, Eric Baskin took a neutral zone pass from Jimmy Schuldt and snuck it into the top-right corner of the net with 3:06 remaining in the second period. The puck clearly hit the crossbar first, and might not have actually hit twine, but officials told St. Thomas Academy that upon the ricochet it bounced behind the red line. Good goal.
Then in overtime, Ridge - working a cycle with seniors Conner Ryan and Michael Helmer - found the puck on his stick while skating all alone through the right slot and popped it on net. The official initially waved no goal, but changed his mind after he saw the puck behind Cadets' goaltender Ian West.
I was able to grab a quick quote from Skippers coach Brian Urick after the game (who acknowledged the closeness of the goals by saying, "They don't have to hit the back of the net they just have to go over the line") then rush back upstairs to fire off the game story.
This morning, I followed-up with STA co-head coach Greg Vannelli who offered his take.
"Our goalie said [on the third goal] that the puck came down next to him but he never saw it cross the line," Vannelli said. "Then in overtime, he just changed his my mind. I just don't know if you can do that. He said, "no goal," but I guess in the end you just want to get it right.
"It's just a difference of opinion, and obviously without replay that's the way it is. Some are going to go our way, some are going to go against us. In the end the ref has to make a decision, and it was a tough call. Again, without instant replay, what are they supposed to do? I respect referees and I'm sure he did the best he could. We'll live with it. That's just the way hockey is."
Fumed as Vannelli and the rest of St. Thomas Academy personnel was with the call in the heat of the moment, in the larger sense the coaching staff was more upset with the way the play developed.
"It was the second game of the year and we have to focus on why did [Ridge] get the open break to even have a chance to score in overtime?" Vannelli said. "That's more important that the fact that we lost the game. We have to become a better team."
And here's a heads-up: the two teams play again three weeks from today in the first round of the Schwan Cup.
"There's definitely chances to redeem yourself as a team," Vannelli said. "You have to focus on the things you can control. You have to overcome referee's calls. It's part of the sport."