The Stockton Thunder should never have let Saturday’s game get to overtime, but an error in OT by the officials was inexcusable and likely decided the game.
Here’s the setup: Game was tied 3-3 and the Thunder had Mike Little and Kevin Noble in the penalty box. Teams in the ECHL skate 4-on-4 in OT, and to create the two man advantage for Utah the officiating crew led by referee JM McNulty gave the Grizzlies a fifth player to create a 5-on-3. This was the proper call. But things got screwy when Little was scheduled to come out of the box.
He was held in by officials, and nine seconds went by before Mark Isherwood scored the game winner to give the game to Utah, 4-3. Stockton should have had four players on the ice when the game ended, but were only allowed to have three. (Rule 84.3 in the ECHL rulebook covers this scenario).
On Friday, it seemed as if Utah was offsides on its winning goal, but that’s a judgement call in a fast-paced game. The troubling thing about Saturday’s incident is there’s a clear misinterpretation of the rules. The officials had already gone home when I went to their locker room after the game, so there wasn’t a chance to ask for an explanation.
Clearly, the Thunder could have avoided this mess. It had a 2-0 lead in the first period, and after losing it, Justin Maylan gave them the lead in the third before Utah tied it with 29.8 seconds left in regulation.
Stockton may not have won it either way, but officials really messed up. Hopefully it is addressed by the league at some point, if not publicly (which is doubtful), at least with the crew.