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Thumbs up, Thumbs Down, Three Stars: NCHC referees need to be more than a second PA announcer with mics

A non-goal in the third period of the UMD men's game Saturday overshadowed all the great goals on and off the ice this weekend by the Bulldogs at Amsoil Arena.

Minnesota Duluth Miami Men's Hockey
Minnesota Duluth forward Kobe Roth (10) takes control of the puck against Miami defenseman Robby Drazner (7) on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — The goal horn at Amsoil Arena got a workout in over the weekend as the UMD men’s and women’s teams combined for 17 goals in their doubleheaders.

Playing in the afternoon on Friday and Saturday, the eighth-ranked UMD women swept Bemidji State in WCHA play 8-2 and 3-0 with six different players finding the back of the net and 11 different players reaching the scoresheet. Senior wings Anna Klein and Naomi Rogge had three goals each. Senior center Gabbie Hughes had five assists.

Minnesota Duluth Bemidji State Women's Hockey
Minnesota Duluth forward Anna Klein (19) celebrates after scoring a third-period goal against Bemidji State on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

In the nightcaps on Friday and Saturday, the seventh-ranked Bulldogs men posted a 4-1 win on Friday, before having to fight back for a 2-2 overtime tie (and shootout loss) on Saturday. The men likely deserved more than the two they scored Saturday night, however, Miami sophomore goaltender Ludvig Persson looked like the goalie who was named to the NCHC all-rookie and second team a year ago with 50 saves on 52 shots.

The six goals by the UMD men came from six different players, and 11 different names found the scoresheet. Notably, four of the team’s young defensemen pitched in points, with sophomore Darian Gotz and Owen Gallatin each getting two assists.

Here’s a look back at last weekend’s Bulldogs hockey action via the Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down and Three Stars by hockey reporter Matt Wellens.

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Thumbs down to poor communication by NCHC officials

The NCHC began experimenting with putting microphones on its officials during the 2018-19 season, and began to mic up officials throughout the league in 2019-20 so they could explain penalties and goal reviews to everyone in the building.

Unfortunately, the practice has often times only introduced a second public address announcer to the arena. That was the case Saturday during the third period at Amsoil Arena after NCHC referee Andy Thackaberry waved off a game-tying goal by UMD’s Kobe Roth because of goaltender interference by Noah Cates with 13 minutes to play.

Goaltender interference is a judgment call based on how the NCAA rule book is written. It’s the ideal moment for a referee to turn on his mic and explain to the 5,000-plus paying customers inside that arena why that is not a goal.

Thackaberry didn’t do that, and probably thought it was unnecessary to do so, as he was so confident in his call, that he decided it didn’t even warrant a review.

Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin did think the play was worthy of a video review, so he challenged the call on the ice. That forced Thackaberry and his partner, Bobby Lukkason, to take another look at the play.

Their time reviewing the various camera angles was as brief as the explanation they gave after looking at the video:

“After review, the call on the ice stands. No goal,” said Thackaberry.

Communication is obviously not a strength for Thackaberry — who after declaring no goal skated to the corner of the ice furthest from the UMD bench — or Lukkason — who was tough to understand on the microphone all night. Otherwise, Sandelin would not have been forced to take an unsportsmanlike conduct bench minor in order to get someone to explain to him why that was goaltender interference.

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“I thought Cates did a good job initially to get back out of the way and hold his ground, and I don't think it had anything to do with the goal,” Sandelin said. “And all I wanted was an explanation after that, and obviously, I didn't get one. And he didn't give me an opportunity, right? Usually, if they're going to give you a bench (minor), they're gonna say, ‘Hey, that's enough.’ He stood there for 30 seconds — felt like 30 seconds — and didn't want to come over. I thought that was wrong.”

Sandelin is right. This was a borderline goaltender interference call, one where in the modern age, an official usually calls that a goal before turning to video for a second look. Based on the overhead camera angle seen by the officials and viewers on My9 Sports or NCHC.tv, Cates did make contact with Miami goaltender Ludvig Persson prior to the puck reaching the crease, but he also had Miami defender Nick Donato backing into him. By the time the puck reaches the crease, Donato is off Cates — diving to block the shot — and Cates is clear of Persson.

Cates Contact.jpg
An overhead camera from the My 9 Sports and NCHC.tv broadcast of the Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, game between Minnesota Duluth and Miami shows Bulldogs senior captain Noah Cates (21) making contact with Miami goaltender Ludvig Persson (32) while Miami defenseman Nick Donato (15) defends Cates during the third period. The goal, scored by UMD senior Kobe Roth, was disallowed because of goaltender interference and upheld by video review following a challenge by UMD.
Screenshot from NCHC.tv
Cates Puck.jpg
An overhead camera from the My 9 Sports and NCHC.tv broadcast of the Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, game between Minnesota Duluth and Miami shows Bulldogs senior captain Noah Cates (21) having released from his contact with Miami goaltender Ludvig Persson (32) just before a shot by UMD senior Kobe Roth reaches the crease. Roth's goal was disallowed because of goaltender interference and upheld by video review following a challenge by UMD.
NCHC.tv screenshot

Did Thackaberry think Cates was pushed into Persson? Did Cates give Persson enough time to reset and stop Roth’s shot? Those are judgment calls that only Thackaberry was in a position to make.

Without his explanation, all anyone — fans, coaches, players, reporters — can do is speculate. It shouldn’t come to that in 2022, because these officials have microphones.
Let’s use them as intended.

Thumbs up to Sophie’s Squad

Back in November, UMD men’s redshirt senior goaltender Ben Patt led a Movember campaign that raised over $11,000 for men’s health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer, as well as mental health. It was a campaign that hit close to home for the program, with sophomore goaltender Zach Stejskal undergoing treatment for testicular cancer.

This weekend, the UMD women’s squad put the mental health of all athletes in the spotlight by hosting a Hockey Hits Back game on Saturday with Sophie’s Squad, an organization that was founded in part by Bulldogs senior center Gabbie Hughes and her family.

Sophie’s Squad is in honor of 14-year-old Sophie Wieland, who died by suicide over the summer. She was not only a player that Hughes and her father — Terry — coached, but a friend as well. Through chuck-a-puck, a silent auction and merchandise sales, the Bulldogs helped raise $8,000 to help raise mental health awareness in youth and college sports.

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Bulldogs goaltender Emma Soderberg put it best Saturday after making 28 saves for the shutout, “We didn't just fight for three points today. We fought for something bigger, too.”

Matt’s Three Stars

3. UMD senior center Casey Gilling — Playing his former team for the first time, Gilling had a goal and an assist in Friday’s win. He also got it done in the faceoff circle both nights, going a combined 22-17.

2. UMD senior wing Naomi Rogge — She’s been a nice compliment to the scoring from the top line. That was especially true against Bemidji State scoring three goals — including the game-winner on Saturday — while also getting an assist.

“Really good, really good. We needed it,” UMD coach Maura Crowell said of Rogge’s weekend. “She’s feeling good about her game and wants to score goals, loves to score goals. She gets just as excited as excited as anybody else and I think that motivates her to be able to help our team like that.”

1. UMD senior center Gabbie Hughes — In addition to the five assists, it was Hughes who organized Saturday’s Hockey Hits Back event with Sophie’s Squad. It felt appropriate that she also helped set up all three UMD goals Saturday, too.

“It’s been really impactful on our group. It was an emotional day,” Crowell said of Hockey Hits Back. “We don’t take it lightly and I thought Gabbie performed just as well, if not better, with that extra motivation. Really emotional day for her, and I’m just so proud.”

Up Next

Both Bulldogs squads are scheduled to be on the road this weekend.

The UMD men travel to No. 16 Omaha to play the Mavericks at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Bulldogs are tied with Western Michigan for third in the NCHC — three points back of second-place Denver and six back of league-leading North Dakota.

The UMD women travel to No. 2 Ohio State for a 5 p.m. game Friday and 2 p.m. game Saturday against the Buckeyes in Columbus. OSU is part of a three-way tie for first in the WCHA along with Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Bulldogs are 10 points back in fourth place.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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