SHAWINIGAN, Que. — For the second time in the MasterCard Memorial Cup, referee Nicolas Dutil was part of a controversial video review. In an interesting coincidence, both worked out to the benefit of the host Shawinigan Cataractes, even though they lost each game.
The Canadian Hockey League later admitted a "procedural error" in the tourament opener allowed the Cataractes second goal against Edmonton to incorrectly count last Friday. The play was not reviewable because Dutil blew his whistle before the puck crossed the Edmonton goal line, even though he should not have. Common sense suggested that the official is human, too. Yes, there's a procedure, but it felt wrong that an early whistle bailed out Edmonton's Laurent Brossoit for not covering the puck.
Wednesday, there was less doubt. During Saint John's eventual 4-1 win, the game's first star Jonathan Huberdeau made a whirlybird move from just to the left of the goal and appeared to stuff the puck past Shawinigan's Gabriel Girard. There was no goal signal from Dutil, just like there wasn't last Friday. On the Sportsnet replay, though, it did seem like Huberdeau got the puck over the line. The exchange between Dutil and the video replay official might also feed a few Maritime hockey fans' QMJHL conspiracy theories.
It's bound too, although people should remember hockey is the fastest-moving team sport on earth and there's always going to be inexactness in officiating. It will always be so no matter how much a replay can be slowed down. Dutil and the booth also took a very long time before deciding there wasn't enough proof to award a goal.
But the exchange between Dutil, a Victoriaville, Que., resident, and video replay officials might have raised a few eyebrows. Or I might be reading too much into it.
Replay official: "I think it's over the line, is what I'm telling you."
Dutil: "But, uh, I think the play was killed."
Replay official: "Okay. The play was killed?"
Dutil: "On the ice, our call is no goal."
Sportsnet Connected anchor Jamie Thomas noted, "See the deal was, the ref was wrong. He didn't blow the whistle. He was off by about two seconds. Should have been a goal."
'The Maritime referee'
It's doubtful there was any bias at play — there's too much integrity for that, really. But this came during a big game between a host team from Quebec and one from the Maritimes. Again, somewhat coincidentally, Cataractes coach Éric Veilleux said that when he yelled at Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant late in the game, it was about "why he had to spend so much time talking to the Maritime referee." The other referee Wednesday was Jonathan Langille, who hails from Upper Sackville, N.S.
It's possible Veilleux was kidding and being pithy just to avoid the question. Still, "Maritime referee" comes off rather cryptically in the wake of Gallant's rants earlier in the week about QMJHL officiating.
Gallant said he didn't get an explanation from Dutil for why his on-ice call was upheld.
"I didn't get an explanation, to be honest with you," the Saint John coach. "He didn't come over. Didn't say anything."
Gallant was fined earlier in the tournament for comments about QMJHL refereeing. He was also circumspect when asked whether Dutil and Langille explained why Shawinigan's Jonathan Racine only got a two-minute minor for elbowing Saint John's Tomas Jurco in the head during the third period.
"They didn't want to talk to me too much," Gallant said. "Like I said, there was some issues there. I'm trying to be a good boy."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.