We’ll have a full set of news notes up tomorrow, but in the meantime there was a Controversial Incident in today’s game, the fourth of their series, between Sibir Novosibirsk and Metallurg Magnitogorsk! Read on, and we will take a bit of a look at what happened immediately before the winning goal…
Metallurg came into the game with a 2-1 lead in the series, and the big story was the reawakening of Mr. Sergei Mozyakin. After enduring a two-month slump post-Christmas, and being held without a point in the first three games of his team’s opening-round match-up against Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, Mozyakin had gotten things going. Four points in the last three games against Avtomobilist were followed by five in the first three contests against Sibir, and he kept things going in Game 4. His first-period assist staked Metallurg to an early lead, and they held a slim advantage into the dying moments of regulation time, only to see Sibir’s Calle Ridderwall knot things at three apiece.
Off to overtime we went, and less than a minute in, Mozyakin took a pass at the Sibir blueline, ambled into the slot, and fired a nice little laser of a wrist-shot past Alexander Salák. Victory for Metallurg, a 3-1 advantage in the series… and also furious protests by the Sibir players, who felt that the Magnitogorskians had been guilty of Too Many Men on the Ice immediately prior to the play. Did they have a point? Let us look at some shots from the video:
Rule 411.a in the KHL Official Rulebook for 2015-16 states that a player cannot go onto the ice until the player he is replacing is within 1.5 metres of the bench (link is to a PDF, in Russian). We can see in the screengrab above that Metallurg’s Czech forward Tomáš Filippi is clearly on the ice (both skates down), while team-mate and fellow-countryman Jan Kovář is still much too far from the bench. Per Rule 411.б, should Filippi play the puck or make physical contact with an opponent, it’s Too Many Men. Filippi knows it, too, and as the puck and Sibir’s Alexei Kopeikin approach, he tries to jump up out of the way:
No luck — either the puck or Kopeikin’s stick makes contact with Filippi’s skates, prompting a shout from the Novosibirsk fans and some arm-waving from the Sibir players. No whistle comes, though — the puck ends up deep in the Metallurg zone, whence it is smartly relayed up to Mozyakin, and ten seconds later the game is over. Salák sprints from his net to protest, with his team-mates joining in, and the referees actually do huddle up to discuss matters. However, the goal stands, and Sibir must now win three in a row to advance to the Conference Finals.
So did the refs get it right? Well, by the letter of the law, they probably did, in fact. Rule 411.г states that if a player is accidentally hit by the puck while entering or exiting the playing surface, then no penalty for Too Many Men shall be assessed. And nobody could argue that Filippi deliberately played the puck — in fact, he did everything he could to get out of its way. It would, I believe, be a different matter had he made contact with Kopeikin, but that does not seem to be the case. And indeed, the KHL itself cited 411.г in its official explanation of what happened.
On the other hand, Sibir’s anger is understandable (the team has formally requested that the game be annulled, and presumably replayed). Filippi definitely was on the ice too early, and he did affect the play while in that position. Anyone who has watched much hockey at all has probably seen Too Many Men called under precisely those circumstances without much protest from the penalized team.
And for poor Sibir, the news actually gets worse. There are reports out that Salák, notoriously tempestuous but so important to his team’s fortunes, may have manhandled one of the referees while protesting Mozyakin’s goal. If he did — no such incident appears in the video, for what it’s worth — he’s likely to be suspended (the linked article mentions the possibility of five games). Three wins in a row against Metallurg Magnitogorsk will be hard enough for Sibir even without the potential loss of their starting netminder.
One final note: controversial it may have been, but Sergei Mozyakin’s goal represents his 900th point in top-level Russian hockey. He is the first player to reach that particular milestone, and is closing in on former Soviet national team captain Boris Mikhailov for the all-time goals scored mark as well; Mozyakin needs only 11 more to tie Mikhailov.
Full news notes tomorrow!