In writing about the fourth and final game between the US and Russian under-20 squads in Lake Placid on Sunday, I commented on the quality of the officiating and mentioned Russian goaltender Alexei Trifonov’s trip to the penalty box. At the time, I assumed that Trifonov had skated into the box on his own, in protest against the latest in a game’s worth of questionable penalty calls against his team. As it turns out, Trifonov’s presence in the penalty box wasn’t an act of civil disobedience by a frustrated goaltender — it was ordered by one of the referees.
Russian under-20 coach Vladimir Plyushchev spoke to Sport-Express about his team’s trip to Lake Placid — and the referees — upon his return to Moscow on Monday.
We put up four good fights, and everything would have been fine, if not for the referees. Of course we expected such a thing, but not to this extent. In the last game of the series it got to the point that the referees planted our goaltender on the [penalty] bench, and forward [Anton] Lazarev got ready to stand in goal. We didn’t have a second goaltender — [Dmitry] Shikin was injured the night before. But then someone let the referees know that in hockey goaltenders do not get sent to the penalty box. If next season a similar trip is offered to us, we will seriously think: do we need this?
Had I not seen the game with my own eyes, I probably would have dismissed Pluschev’s complaints as those of a bitter coach looking to make excuses for his team’s poor performance. But the officiating on Saturday was truly atrocious. Granted, this wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last international hockey game that was marred by sub-par officiating. But it begs the question: does either side really benefit when an exhibition game that’s meant to allow a coach to evaluate his young players gets officiated so poorly?
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