2022 Bemidji State vs Minnesota State - Men's

Breaking Down The Unprecedented 2022 CCHA Championship Game

Breaking Down The Unprecedented 2022 CCHA Championship Game

The CCHA Championship Game ended in unprecedented fashion Saturday night as Minnesota State won the Mason Cup.

Mar 20, 2022 by Tim Rappleye
Breaking Down The Unprecedented 2022 CCHA Championship Game

CCHA Commissioner Don Lucia, a guy whose coaching career ended after missing the NCAA tournament by one ten-thousandth of a point back in 2018, was finally in a position of power to execute postseason justice, inside or outside of the rules. He chose the latter, but he got it right.

Two teams’ seasons were on the line in the CCHA championship overtime on Saturday night: underdog Bemidji and 14th ranked Northeastern, the latter rooting desperately for Minnesota State from 1,400 miles away.

In the fourth minute of overtime it was ruled that the Mavericks had ended Bemidji’s season—and extending Northeastern’s—after a flashy rush and finish by MSU’s Josh Groll.

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The usual championship pandemonium ensued: Dog pile celly; time-honored hand-shake line, carpet rolled out, the Mason Trophy presented for the first time in nine years, all pomp and circumstance, all for naught.

In an unprecedented display of putting the toothpaste back in the tube, a video replay showed a flawed goal—the puck actually entered the goal under the side of the cage—and the long and painstaking process of re-winding the tape, turning around the Titanic, the longest hour imaginable, accompanied by an endless video loop OT the goal in question. Much of the delay was attributed to getting the on-ice officials back in the building. It was not a proud moment for the new league.

Here’s the video evidence that changed everything.

The very idea of returning to play after the trophy presentation infuriated Husky nation, the Hockey East heavyweights that went from being locked into the NCAA tourney to being back on the bubble. They called for the commissioner’s head.

“Don Lucia should be fired,” spewed the Northeastern hockey blog, citing the note to rule 93.6 stating that all reviews must be completed prior to the officials leaving the ice.

While the boys in Boston were fuming, the men in Mankato were pretty calm, all things considered.

“It wasn’t what anybody wanted,” said Commissioner Lucia. “But for me and everybody involved, we wanted to make the right call, that outweighed anything else under the circumstance. Right or wrong. Some people will say it was wrong.  I can live with that. I didn’t want to end anyone’s career on something that wasn’t a good goal.”

Less than two minutes after resumption, Minnesota State’s Jack McNeely scored the Mavs second OT winner, and order was restored to a game, a league and the ensuing national tournament.

Three unimpeachable hockey men from Minnesota: Mike Hastings, Tom Serratore and Lucia, calmly worked out the right—albeit thorny—solution to a very sticky problem. There were live shots of the three coaches calmly processing the breaking news together, Hastings’ hand on Serratore’s arm in reassurance.

“Tom and I’s friendship [will stand the test of time,” Hastings said. “It wasn’t argumentative. As a coach on either side of the fence you just want it the right way, however it’s supposed to work out.”

Getting it right required ripping off a large and very sticky Band-Aid, getting the refs back on the ice, fans back in the building, and two cold teams warmed up to resume a sudden death match with massive national implications. It was unsightly and unseemly for a championship game, but it will stand the test of time.

Twenty-three years ago the NHL had a nearly identical scenario: a trophy celebration after a controversial goal, and they stubbornly plowed on with the ceremony, despite video evidence proving the Cup-winning goal was of the bogus variety. Every Buffalo hockey fan who lived through that awful night in June will curse Gary Bettman and his league until their final breath. Hockey author Keith Gave was in Midland Marine Arena in Buffalo that night, a contest he still considers a travesty.

“The first thing I thought of when I saw the 2022 CCHA Championship Game was Buffalo 1999 -- triple OT, about 1:30 in the morning -- when Brett Hull scored the winning goal in Game 6 giving the Dallas Stars the Stanley Cup,” Gave said. “Or did he? By the time that became a serious question, the trophy had already been awarded and the Stars were drinking out of it. The bizarre explanation from NHL officials made little sense to any of us who had seen goals come off the board all season long for so much as a toe in the crease. Hull's entire left foot was in the crease when he pushed the puck past Dominik Hasek. Kudos to the CCHA for getting it right. I'm still not convinced the NHL did.”

The hiring of Lucia brought credibility to a fledgling league, but no one could have imagined that he would be challenged like this in his first championship game as commissioner. He passed a rocky test, a time-line debacle in which his league will forever be questioned if not ridiculed. The human element ruled the day, however, and despite the various missteps, humanity won out, and justice was served. There will be no asterisks plaguing the 2022 NCAA tournament, thanks to three hockey men from Minnesota.