Team USA won its fifth straight women’s world hockey championship on Sunday, but not without controversy. (Important note: “Controversy” is the way to say it if you’re from the winning country and don’t want to admit the Americans got lucky and the Finns got robbed.)
Host Finland had surprised by even making the final, but they were every bit the Americans’ match, hanging on to force overtime on the back of Noora Raty’s 50 saves. At 11:33 of overtime, Finland’s Petra Nieminen scored what looked like the gold medal-winner.
The Finns lost their damn minds! But the celebration gradually, horribly (in retrospect) quieted as the would-be world champs and the home crowd slowly realized that the goal was under review:
Finland captain Jenni Hiirikoski had made contact with USA goaltender Alex Rigsby before Nieminen scored. The officials on the ice, noting that Rigsby was out of the crease, had ruled that Hiirikoski made incidental contact with the netminder, which is allowed, and even called a tripping penalty on Rigsby. But the video goal judges weren’t so sure.
Eventually, after a brutal seven-minute review, the call on the ice was overturned: no goal, and Finland had to pick up all their gear they had cast off in celebration, and had to keep playing.
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Finnish Ice Hockey Federation CEO Matti Nurminen was clearly heartbroken:
“The referees on the ice had a different view on the situation than the video-goal judge,” Nurminen said. “Referees on the ice were giving a penalty to the goalie for tripping and they were allowing the goal. But when it goes to video review, the power and authority goes the video-goal judges. They saw it as goalie interference and made that decision.
“IIHF president Rene Fasel said it was a judgement call. If you show it to 100 hockey persons, some per cent say it was a goal and some say it wasn’t. These are tough decision for the video goal judges. We have to respect their call.”
The IIHF put out a statement after the game (emphasis theirs):
Two IIHF Playing Rules were considered in this instance:
-According to IIHF Playing Rule 186 v. Goaltender and Goal/Goal Crease Disallowed: An attacking skater who makes contact other than incidental with a goaltender who is out of his goal crease during game action will be assessed a minor penalty for interference. If a goal is scored at this time, it will not count.
-According to IIHF Playing Rule 183 ii. Protection of a Goaltender: Incidental contact is allowed when the goaltender is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease, provided the attacking skater makes a reasonable effort to minimize or avoid such contact.
Taking these two rules into consideration, the IIHF Video Goal Judge Operations determined that the goal must be disallowed.
Ultimately at issue here is whether Hiirikoski made an effort to avoid contact with Rigsby—and whether she even had the time and space to make such an effort. Well, look at the replays (especially the overhead angle), and you decide. And then decide whether it’s obvious enough to overturn the call on the ice.
Team USA would go on to win in a shootout when Rigby stoned Susanna Tapani’s rather unorthodox attempt.
Finland attempted to file a formal protest of the outcome, but IIHF rules don’t allow protests of on-ice calls. So it’s over, USA are champs yet again, and Hiirikoski was named tournament MVP, and both feats have just the sourest taste.