Adam Kmetz coasts toward the Wachusett goal and lets a wrist shot fly from the right face-off circle five minutes into the first-period. The puck catches the jet stream toward the Mountaineers' cage and scoots inside the low-left post over the goal line. Sounds like a clean goal, right?
This sports reporter thought so. I put down my coffee and scratched down the details on my notepad as the goal horn bellowed through the Wallace Civic Center. The goal judge to the right of me flicked the lamp light and was instructed to promptly turn it off by the head linesman as the goal was disallowed.
A Wachusett defenseman bumped into his goaltender, and ended up in the back of the net as the puck crossed the red line. The game ended up going to a shootout, where the Crusaders lost 2-1 and their state title dreams went up in the spray of Wachusett sharpshooter Marc Happy's skates.
It is an often used cliché in the sportswriting world, but no game should be left in the hands of the officials. We saw a similar incident occur during Bromfield's quarterfinal soccer game with Keefe Tech, when Trojans' striker Lucas Hickock was whistled for offsides on what would have been the go-ahead goal. Upon review, Hickock was onsides, and the referees botched the call.
Just this year in hockey, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association piloted a three-official program. In all of the playoff games this season, there were three officials on the ice at all times.
If you look at the picture showing the goal that wasn't, there is an official set up on the right flank of the goal line, and he still waived off the goal without even consulting the other two referees. At what point does the league begin to institute video replay?
Let's face it, funding at the high school level is tough, but how hard would it be to have a camera fixated on the goal line to ensure incidents like this don't happen, especially when a trip to the state playoffs hangs in the balance.
Kmetz's father, Michael, had his camera rolling throughout the game, like he always does, and caught the blunder in real-time.
"They have three referees on the ice, and a goal judge," said Kmetz. "Adam came down the right side and slid the puck across like he was going to pass it. The defenseman was hit and went down, and the goalie and defensemen both slid into the net and brought the puck with them. "
When the goal was disallowed, it was a game of passing the buck, according to Kmetz's video. The referee, after he waived off the goal, pointed towards the goal judge as if to say that he waived it off.
"The referee pointed over to the goal judge to say that he disallowed it, not him," said Kmetz. "The referee looked like he was in the perfect position to make the call. The slow motion of the video showed that the puck definitely went into the net."
Kmetz was not satisfied with the goal judge, and officials' call on the ice during the game, so he took it up with the MIAA, and sent them a letter, along with a video.
"I sent the video to the MIAA email address, and I also sent it to the Central Mass. Director Peter Glanville," said Kmetz. "I have not heard back from either of them yet."
If I were a betting man, I wouldn't put my money on the MIAA contacting Mr. Kmetz Kmetz knows that the outcome of the game will not be impacted, but all he wants is an apology for the Crusaders' hockey team, and their loyal supporters.
It is a shame that the three-official system and ice-level goal judge system failed the Crusaders in the CMass. Finals, but, like any coach will tell you, you can't blame the refs. About 40 percent of Groton-Dunstable's 47 shots were prime-time opportunities, and they didn't capitalize. A yearning for an apology is warranted, but it probably won't come.
"At this point, there is nothing they can do," he said. "They have to be man enough and at least send an apology. At this level, they should have the best officials out there. I thought the game was an awesome game to watch, and that is the way high school hockey should be played."