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Friday night fights: BG/WMU style

If you turn on an NHL game on almost any night, you are just about guaranteed to witness two men dropping their gloves to engage in fisticuffs.

But in college hockey, fights are the rare exception, and are justifiably treated as such by the officials. In fact, Rule 6.17 of the NCAA Men’s ‘amp; Women’s Ice Hockey rule book states that ‘A player shall not fight an opponent or participate in a fight, on or off the playing surface [punching or attempting to punch is considered fighting].’

Pretty clear cut.

Then perhaps a couple Western Michigan players failed to get that message with 12 seconds left in Friday’s game at the BGSU Ice Arena. It was a game in which the main storyline should have been about Falcon tri-captain Derek Whitmore’s third hat-trick of the season.

Instead, the action was marred in the final seconds by gloves, sticks and jerseys being strewn about the ice while the four officials tried in desperation to separate all 10 skaters.

Exactly 197 total penalty minutes were issued in the game, with all but 31 of those coming in the third period alone.

‘There’s no need for that in college hockey,’ Whitmore said calmly after Friday’s game. ‘Our five guys did a good job of sticking together though, and it’s unfortunate that it happened, but that’s hockey.’

Those five guys from BG were Tommy Dee, Ben Geelan, John Mazzei, Brian Moore and Kyle Page. All were hit with five-minute major penalties, as well as a game disqualification. Because of the latter punishment, they each had to sit out the next night when the series concluded in Kalamazoo.

The Falcons fought through Saturday, without throwing any punches, to win 2-1 in overtime.

Meanwhile, the team who began the scrum was without five of its own players on Saturday. Jordan Collins, Matt Clackson, Chris Clackson, Chris Frank and Patrick Nagorsen all watched the Broncos lose to BG in the final game this season.

After Friday’s game, both coaches refused to comment on whether they thought it was frustration that spilled over and led the five Western players to go after several white jerseys.

A few of the Falcon players had more to offer on the issue.

‘Supposedly, earlier on in the game Geelan might have two-hand slashed one of them in the hand,’ Dee said. ‘They clearly thought it was on purpose. They said they weren’t going to let him get away with it and all game they were coming over to the bench and asking him to fight.’

‘Obviously, they’re a desperate team, but there’s no need for that,’ Whitmore said.

BG coach Scott Paluch did say Friday that he thought two players, Page from BG and Nagorsen from WMU, were not actively involved and should not have been penalized along with the others.

‘You basically have 10 guys on the ice and two officials,’ Paluch said. ‘They’re doing their best to break up as much as they can, and unfortunately what it means is they can’t really have an idea of who’s doing what.’

Even though Dee did have to sit out Saturday’s game, he was proud of the way his teammates didn’t surrender in the face of excessive aggression from the Broncos.

‘When something like that happens, you can’t let your teammate [Geelan] just go in there by himself,’ Dee said. ‘I think everyone stuck together, and if anything, it just made us bond even more as a team.’

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