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Congratulations to Team USA, Finland, Switzerland and Russia for advancing to the semifinals of the 2019 World Junior Championships. Upsets are good for the game, but it should also be said that the gap in the hockey world gets narrower and narrower all the time, because more and more nations can ice a competitive roster.
Finland's win over Canada was a mild upset, but an upset nonetheless. The Finns, however, are capable of beating any team at any time even if they are in the role of slight underdog -- a huge leap from pre-1995 when they were more-than-slight underdogs. Meanwhile, the Swiss program may not be a powerhouse and may be significant underdogs against the medal favorites but it's no pushover, either, because they usually play a technically sound game and receive good goaltending more often than not.
Now on to today's main topic: With the score tied at 3-3 in the Switzerland-Russia preliminary round game, the Swiss were correctly awarded two penalty shots on the same play. Switzerland's Marco Lehmann gained a stride on defenseman Dmitri Samorukov and skated into the Russian zone on a breakaway. Samorukov impeded him twice.
There is precedent. I know, because I once made the same call myself, in an AHL game in Hershey before my promotion to the National Hockey League. Actually, I retold the story recently in my U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction speech.
On a breakaway, Kato hooked the guy at the blueline and both players fell to the ice. The momentum took the attacker, the puck and Kevin himself into the goaltender, causing him to wipe out, too. In desperation, Kevin closed his hand over the puck in the crease and tossed it off into the corner.
Two offenses, two penalty shots. If someone robs a bank and then steals a getaway car, he is charged with two separate offenses. Same thing in this case. A scoring chance on a breakaway was taken away by the infraction at the blueline and the resulting collision. Then an automatic penalty shot had to be awarded for the defenseman putting his hand on the puck inside the crease.
On that night, legendary Hershey Bears GM Frank Mather called down to the scorer's table from the pressbox. I will never forget that conversation after I was handed the phone.
"Stew, Mather here," Frank said.
"Yes, sir. What can I do for you?" I asked, knowing full well what he wanted to know.
"Two penalty shots?! Two?! What the hell?"' he said, incredulously.
"Have to call two here," I said, briefly explaining why.
He didn't dispute the reasoning but said, "I have never seen that before in my life!"
"Well, you won't be able to say that tomorrow," I replied and the conversation ended.
A Class of 2018 inductee to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games. Today, Stewart is the director of hockey officiating for the ECAC.
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