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Fraser: Goaltender interference call on Erik Cole

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Kerry Fraser
12/16/2011 5:40:01 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!

Hi Kerry,

I was watching the Canadiens-Flyers game and in the first period, a Montreal goal was disallowed while the Canadiens were on a 5-on-3 advantage because Erik Cole was in the crease. Although he made minimal (or no) contact with Sergei Bobrovsky, the goal was called back because he didn't have "room" to make the save.

In the second period, Harry Zolnierczyk scored for the Flyers although there seemed to be contact with Carey Price in the crease, similar to the disallowed Montreal goal. It was called a goal right away and not even talked over by the refs!

Why would the referee not disallow the Flyers goal since Montreal had a disallowed goal on a similar play?

Thanks,
Shawn McGuire

Shawn: I had to piece together the action in front of Carey Price's goal crease between Zac Rinaldo of the Flyers and Habs defenceman Alexei Emelin just prior to Harry Zolneirczyk's scoring play. Unfortunately we don't have an isolated camera look at the top of the goal crease.  If my reconstruction of the play is accurate I have no problem with the ref's decision to count Zolneirczyk's goal.

Based on my review I likewise concur that the Habs goal (video link) should not have counted during the 5-on-3 advantage. Let me explain why.

The nature of contact in the crease appears much different in the Zolnierczyk goal compared to the significant presence Erik Cole exerted on his own in Sergei Bobrovsky's crease.  Both plays are described in rule 69—interference on the goalkeeper and is the reason why my call on both plays is the same as the ones made by the referees working the game.

We have become accustomed recently to watching players go hard to the net and even crash or charge the goalie. Let's not mistake obvious and forceful contact in these situations with the often subtle nudge or light contact when a goalie is within his crease. Light contact, while deemed "incidental" is just cause for a goal to be waived off.  When "incidental contact" on the goalie is determined, no time penalty is assessed but the goal is disallowed.
 
We have good "viz" on the Habs disallowed goal which clearly shows Erik Cole backing deep into Bobrovsky's crease on his own without any assistance or contact with a Flyer defensive player. Cole makes contact (light/incidental) with Bobrovsky while the goalie is in the butterfly position at about the half way depth of the crease.

Even though Cole moves slightly to the side there is still physical contact and does not allow the Flyer goalie to move freely about his crease. The language of rule 69 supports the referee's decision to disallow the goal;

" - Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his position or contact, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal;

 - For purposes of this rule, "contact" whether incidental or otherwise, shall mean any contact that is made between or among a goalkeeper and attacking player(s), whether by means of a stick or any part of the body. 

- The overriding rational of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by his actions, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

- If an attacking player establishes a significant position within the goal crease, so as to obstruct the goalkeeper's vision and impair his ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed. 

- A player establishes a significant position within the crease when his body, or a substantial portion thereof, is within the goal crease for more than an instantaneous period of time."

It is very clear that Erik Cole was guilty of all of the above.

In a very quick look that we have on the setup of the Flyer goal we see Zac Rinaldo appear to set himself outside Carey Price's goal crease and is about to be engaged by Habs defenceman Alexei Emelin. The next look we have is when both both Emelin and Rinaldo have altered their positions through what appears to be contact initiated by Emelin.

Assuming that my reconstruction of the play is accurate based on the body language and position of the players involved and in the absence of an isolated camera look, here's the language in rule 69 that would allow this Flyers goal to count:

"If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact."

Zac Rinaldo appears to set himself square to the shooter outside the crease and his position is altered by Emelin. Until I see an isolated camera angle that proves otherwise, this is my best judgment. 

I have to concur with the referee's call on the ice since he was in good position to make a ruling. I am quite sure the play happened as I described it.

Shawn, just because a previous Montreal goal was disallowed for goalkeeper interference these two plays appear to be distinctly different in the method that light contact resulted on the goalkeepers. I support both calls.

It was a tough loss for your Habs!

Erik Cole Andrej Meszaros  (Photo: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
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